Adapting Society to an Ever-Growing, Ever-Aging Population

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Portrait of a beautiful smiling senior woman. Many agree that our society may not have the infrastructure in place to adapt to an ever-growing, ever-aging population. (Kiselev Andrey Valerevich/Shutterstock)

This week, we've been pondering the significance of aging, and aging well in today's world.

First, genomic life scientist J. Craig Venter told us about his plans to make genomic sequencing a tool for health and longevity that will one day be accessible to everyone. Then professor of public health, S. Jay Olshansky, looked at how a fundamentally new approach to aging might benefit society.

Detecting cancer or picking up on genes for Alzheimer's sounds pretty great, but many agree that our society may not have the infrastructure in place to adapt to an ever-growing, ever-aging population.

Joining The Takeaway to discuss the intersection between the aging and the economy is Courtney Coile, associate professor of economics at Wellesley College. 


Courtney Coile

Produced by:

Ellen Frankman


T.J. Raphael

Comments [9]

Martha Snyder from Eugene, Oregon

This topic is who I am, what I am currently exploring. At the age of 68 I found that my quality of life would improve greatly if I had both knees replaced BEFORE I had corrective ankle surgery. Three years later I realized I was ready to be a person with better mobility and not stuck on a couch like my grandmother was. My renewed sense of self has turned the page and I'm about to return to class to gain some computer graphic skills in order to find some part time income which is sorely needed. My degree in sculpture and design should give me a leg up and I look forward to sharing the education experience with the younger generation and hopefully they'll be interested in what I can bring to the class. I feel like a pioneer for a whole new senior cultural dynamic and look forward to the physical and mental exercise.

Mar. 14 2014 04:33 AM
Leslie from California

When Social Security was first established, people worked until age 65 because that was the average age of death. And they worked fewer years until they were no longer able by work injury, work or disease disability.

How long someone can work is governed by availability of employment that provides enough income to live on and how physically able someone remains during their working life. For a decision on retirement someone's expected age of death by personal medical and family history and several other personal factors like savings determine when they can actually "retire." Averages quoted by your guest are rather meaningless and ignore physical human capacities, labor force and employment opportunities and economic realities.

Age group cohorts (how many younger, middle-age, older workers are in the labor pool) and how many jobs are available (jobs that pay enough to live on in each age group) determine retirement.

Your guest talks as someone who has spent her life only in academia and never worked a day in her life.

Mar. 13 2014 04:41 PM
derac from Chicago, IL

There are a few professions that allow, embrace, older workers but there are far more jobs that don't. If you are over 50 today having a career/job is almost a luxury in most areas. Trying to find a job when you are 50 or over is almost laughable. Venter was incredibly naive in some of his comments. People live too long now for our economy.

Mar. 13 2014 03:00 PM
Robert S from Dallas, TX

Every time that social security is discussed, the topic centers around its inevitable demise. No one ever has mentioned that during 2012 the government's idea for provide economic stimulus was to reduce the amount of Social Security tax withheld from our paychecks by 2%. So to reduce a 6.2% tax to 4.2%, the government reduced the amount it collected from employees for Social Security by 1/3. I think a lot of our elected officials want it to fail.

Mar. 13 2014 01:20 PM

Disappointed not to hear discussion of real public $$ impact from aging population. It's not SS or Medicare but Medicaid, as vast numbers of people outlive their savings and employer and public pensions go broke or disappear.

Mar. 13 2014 01:04 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Sadly, we have to start planning for a longer life. Soylent Green, Logan's Run are great but do you know "Zardoz" with Sean Connery" - full movie on youtube. Society of people who never die!

@Angel - you know this one

Mar. 13 2014 11:34 AM

The premise on extended lives is that we will be able to work longer...who will hire us? I am a highly experienced & educated environmental engineer facing difficulty finding a job in my field at the age of 56. It will not be easier at 65.

Already we see seniors working at jobs that used to be filled by teens at McDonalds. Is this my future?

Mar. 13 2014 10:12 AM
Angel from Miami FL

Don't be surprised if the premise to "Logan's Run" is considered as a viable option to our aging population problem - termination at age 30. Millenials (1986-2005) are bound to see that movie at some point and get ideas. I should put in my application for a Sandman position now. Might as well get on the inside of all that.

Mar. 13 2014 10:03 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Because of abortion we're watching the slow train wreck of our society. This was said in 1973 and that it would take a few decades to see the results, now we're there.

Mar. 13 2014 09:39 AM

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