In this last post of our series for Older Americans Month, let’s look to the future, to the mid-point of this century. 2050 feels a long way down the road. I’ll be in my early 60s then and, if I’m still able to continue working, I’ll be nearing retirement age. I’ll likely have different health care needs than I do now, but many of my other needs will be the same: a safe and warm place to sleep, healthy food, fun with friends, companionship and love, and access to activities I enjoy. As 10,000 people turn 65 every day in this country, more and more people will be relying on the programs and services we have in place for later in life. This means greater stress on the health care system, more people with long-term care needs, more people aging into poverty, and even less appropriate and affordable housing for seniors. We’re in this together. Growing older is something we need to talk about (and plan for), like, now.
Aging is a universal experience of all living creatures, yet somehow we often forget its all-inclusive nature. We also aren’t taught how to plan for it beyond vague ideas that you ought to save for it. We are made to believe that aging happens to those people over there, or maybe to our grandparents, but not to us—the age-defying younger generations. The aged among us are thus systematically “othered,” making their needs, challenges, and experiences more easily marginalized by society and policymakers. When we finally do start to realize we’re aging too, or more easily, realize that our parents are aging, our relation to it often begins with fear—fear we’re getting gray hairs, fear we’ll lose our social status, or fear we’ll lose our independence. But we don’t need to be scared of aging as the wild unknown—we can actually shape the future we want for all of us. Here are five things we can do now for a better shared future in 2050:
1. Support policies that increase the amount of money in low-income seniors’ pockets such as the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act of 2015.
2. Speak out against any cuts to Medicare and Medicaid to ensure they’ll still be around for us all in 2050.
There is a direct connection between these issues and income security throughout your life.
4. Spread new ideas about aging and what it means to be an older adult – reframing aging is cultural work.
You can subvert the discrimination of ageism by getting to know an older adult in your community, or spending more time with an older member of your family. Listen, really listen, to their stories and allow any preconceived notions you may have about aging to be influenced.
Add your name to the growing list of Americans committed to a future of Justice in Aging and make your priorities heard!