An aging society is a fact for the United States, much of the developed world, and many developing countries. People are reaching traditional retirement ages with many years of expected life remaining and their functional capacity largely intact. Many of these people want to continue contributing to society through activities that are meaningful to the older adult and valued by others and society. As this longevity era develops, actions are needed now to address ageism and age discrimination, develop coherent policies and laws regarding retirement and pensions that recognize the reality of people living far past the historical retirement age of 65, and enhance the economic impact of older workers and retirees at the local, regional, state, and national levels.
By convening a workgroup of experts in this field, The Gerontological Society of America and Bank of America Merrill Lynch seek to concentrate on innovation and creative strategies as the United States looks for ways to leverage an aging society. Small changes can make a big difference in the lives of older Americans as well as the economic health of the nation, and multiple levers can be used to effect positive change in the Longevity Economy.
At the core of ageism is a stereotypical assumption that when people turn 65, they become dependent on others for financial assistance and direct care, grow frail and sickly, and end up residing in nursing homes for years. In fact, most older adults never need institutional care. Five general phases of aging are identifiable, from the active, engaged “go-go” older adult who is frequently still working to the “no-go” person whose physical and mental conditions require the advanced care available primarily in skilled-nursing facilities. The journey connecting these points—and their impact on economic systems in the United States—is the subject of this report.