“Young” America is rapidly changing into older America. In 2000, 35.0 million people were over 65 (or 12.4 percent of the population), a number that is projected to rise to 71.5 million by 2030 (or 19.6 percent of the population). Over a somewhat longer term, the trends are even more startling: between 2000 and 2050, the U. S. Census Bureau expects the population of Americans age 45 to 54 to grow moderately from 37 million to 43 million; but, in the same period, the population age 55 to 64 will grow from 24 million to 42 million; the population age 65 to 74 will nearly double, from 18 million to 35 million; the population age 75 to 84 will more than double, from 12 million to 26 million; and the population age 85 and above will more than quadruple, from 4 million to 18 million”.
Current structures for care in the U.S. are already facing financial shortfalls. As the ratio of workers decreases and the retired population grows, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will all be affected. Care-giving institutions such as nursing homes and special day programs are limited in scope already. Families are experiencing lower birthrates and often live at a distance from their elderly loved ones, reducing the number of potential voluntary care-givers.
However, the effects of the U.S. changing demographics will not be limited to economics and health care systems, as essential as they are. The coming of “a mass geriatric society will affect every dimension of human and social life: the culture of the workplace, the consumer market, the housing market and most deeply the rhythm and character of family life.