Columbia University in the City of New YorkThe John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
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Research on an Aging Society
An aging society brings with it challenges, but also possibilities if policies and programs can be realigned to tap the strengths of aging Americans. Read our recommended smart solutions for an aging society.


Network Members Discuss America’s Aging Population with Richard Heffner on “The Open Mind”


Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV
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Opportunities and Challenges of an Aging Society

Imagine a society with many more walkers than strollers. Tomorrow's America will be a unique Aging Society, forged by two critical forces. First, we will experience the effects of the remarkable increases in disability-free life expectancy of the twentieth century. Second, over the next decade, enormous ''baby boom'' generation, 76 million strong, will reach retirement age. Taken together, these forces will create an America populated, in large part, by previously unimagined numbers of older people.

What will life in an Aging America be like for the elderly, and, perhaps more importantly, for the middle-aged and younger generations? As America ages, it is also becoming increasingly diverse. We are likely entering a period of rapid change in many of our society's key institutions, including retirement, education, housing and labor markets, churches, local communities, political parties, government, and the family itself. While some analysis and much political discussion has circulated around the sustainability of the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds, there has been much less work on the many critical issues surrounding the social, economic, and institutional implications of an Aging Society. For example, how will the aging of society impact those in various socioeconomic groups disparately? We must understand where we will likely go, and develop the policies and strategies at the local and national levels that will optimize life opportunities for all age and socioeconomic groups in an Aging America.

Starting in mid 2006, the MacArthur Foundation sponsored a set of exploratory consultations with recognized scholars from relevant disciplines to evaluate the proposition that a significant opportunity exists for the Foundation to make an important contribution in this area. This vigorous planning phase included meetings of American and European scholars from relevant disciplines and discussions with other groups and organizations working in areas related to an Aging Society. From these meetings emerged an agenda for a research network to conduct a society-wide, broad-based analysis of the modifications required in our major societal institutions to facilitate emergence of a productive, equitable Aging Society in the United States. read more...

The MacArthur Research Network on an Aging is funded by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
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