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The Elderly

Please note that Life In The USA has an entire chapter filled with detail on Retirement and Aging.

As the so-called “Baby Boom” or “Boomer” population (Americans born between 1946 and 1964) begins to reach retirement age, the elderly cohort of the population will continue to increase. As in most of the western world, the population of the United States is getting older.

Elderly people (sometimes called, politely, “senior citizens,”) have a great deal of political power. They get out and vote, and support political candidates who cater to their agendas. At the same time, America has a mobile, changeable, youth-oriented culture that does not respect or accommodate age. The extended multi-generational family that exists in many other countries is rare in the United States.

While the elderly as a group are fairly well off and tend to own property, for many among them, being older in the United States presents a true financial challenge. The greatest issue is healthcare, but income security is not far behind. A hidden issue is the innate prejudice among young Americans against the old, or, for that matter, the difficulty older Americans have in accepting the ways of the young. In many other societies, the generation gap is not so palpable. Older Americans may enjoy certain privileges, such as senior citizen discounts, but the young, who must pay more, probably resent them. The nation’s social security system is in a state of perpetual crisis. As it becomes dramatically less self-sustaining, more and more, the young will bear the burden of supporting the old. They are unlikely to like or accept this.

As a privileged generation, the Baby Boom tends to deny the effects of aging. Indeed, many Baby Boomers look younger than their predecessors did at the same age, and lead more active lives. They “think young” and expect a great deal from life even as they age. Not every one of them can be satisfied, however. Age is always a cultural and political issue in the United States.

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