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Here are some facts about a quiet revolution that will change the fabric of this nation, according to the National Institute on Aging:
--One American turns 50 every 7.5 seconds. --One in 6 Americans will be 65 or older by the year 2020, with an estimated 75 million by 2010. --In 1996, the first wave of Baby Boomers turned 50. --In 2000, nearly 40% of the federal budget was spent on aging-related programs. --After age 75, most women are widowed and live alone. --After age 75, most men are married and live with their spouse. --In nursing homes, 70% of residents are women. --Roughly 56% of the Older Americans Act budget is spent on nutrition programs for the elderly -- meals on wheels, congregate meal sites, etc. The rates of malnutrition risk among the elderly are estimated at somewhere between 64% and 88%. --Today, the fastest growing age group in this country is women age 85 and older. --Seven (7) million over age 65 require help with daily living: feeding, dressing, bathing. --Social and psychological support is most often provided to elderly parent(s) by middle-aged daughter(s).
American Demographics magazine reports 70 million grandparents in the US today, with an average age of 47 for first-time grandparents, who spend an estimated 35 billion annually on their grandchildren.
People concerned about Social Security's survival in its present form are probably wise to be skeptical. Today there are 6 wage-earners for each person on Social Security benefits. Shortly, and no one seems to be entirely certain when this will occur, there will be two wage-earners for each person receiving Social Security benefits.
Advertising pundits have already changed the ads we see on TV, featuring more older people, medications often required by the elderly, and the like. Expect this trend to continue.
People are living longer. The birth rate is decreasing. Many are opting for early retirement, and buying into Social Security sooner, even for a reduced monthly benefit. Some haven't had a choice but to retire early, thanks to downsizing and buy-out offers posed by employers to reduce the number of older, higher- salaried employees.
Problems of normal aging are, of course, exacerbated by additional problems, such as loss of vision, dementia or Alzheimer's, physical problems or disability. But why is it that some seem to age so gracefully, with a minimum of trouble, while others age much more rapidly? Much of it is probably genetic, but an equal emphasis has to be placed on lifestyle.
Take an aspirin a day, and a multi-purpose vitamin. Don't smoke. Eat two servings of fish per week. Exercise is a proven age-reducer, even if it's walking 15 to 20 minutes per day. Owning a dog or cat is supposed to add new life to the owner. And dental flossing once per day is said to add up to six years to your life. One's mental attitude might be key, for optimists are said to live longer than pessimists.
Nursing and other medical professionals are entering the field of gerontology care in greater numbers. That's where the jobs will be in the not-so-distant future.
Ageism is a social problem, right up there with racism or sexism. But with more and more seniors dotting the American landscape, expect ageism to decrease markedly. Seniors are the one reliable voting group and, as the Association for Retired Persons (AARP) has proved, a powerful lobby in Washington, D.C.