Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Longer Life Expectancy, Higher Outlays for Medicare and Social Security…

Those predictions come from a recent study by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network for an Aging Society.

The predictions fit a statement I’ve made frequently to audiences during the past five years: As we witness one of the most dramatic demographic changes ever – throughout the world – with the aging of our population, we can expect “more of everything”. On the positive side, more people will live longer, with more resources, staying healthy, wanting to retire later, and seeking volunteer opportunities and other ways to contribute to their communities. On the negative side, more people will live with chronic conditions and disabilities, with few resources, and requiring care for an extended final stage of their lives.

The MacArthur study suggests that “current government projections may significantly underestimate the future life expectancy of Americans.” It predicts that Medicare and Social Security outlays will increase trillions of dollars beyond what many analysts expect.

It notes other impacts resulting from the increase in the aging population, including (on the negative side) the increased dependency ratio and threats to the nation’s fiscal health, and (on the positive side) a more experienced work force, and more productive years for individuals.

We will see an increase in the number of people who want to contribute to their communities by volunteering. However, as Greg Owen noted in a recent letter to the StarTribune, most agencies are not ready to accept an influx of volunteers. If we want to make the best use of the talents of our aging population, we need to construct the infrastructure which can do so.

For a longer description, and references, see the MacArthur Foundation’s Press Releases.

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