WATCH: Rethinking Aging in America

When social security was enacted in 1935, average life expectancy was only 62. Today, we’re living an additional 15 years, on average.

That’s one of the facts cited in our video of the week, “The Big Idea in 4 Minutes: Coming of Age in an Aging America,” which explores the ramifications of the demographic shift that’s about to take place as the Baby Boom generation hits retirement age. The cartoon-style video boldly and elegantly encapsulates the core issues in current aging discourse – and it’s also fun to watch.

“When we talk about an aging society, everybody swoons. They think, ‘Oh my God.’ People write articles about ‘defusing the demographic time bomb.’ Why is there an assumption there is no upside?” – Jack Rowe, MD

The video starts with the premise that we are not the people we were 50 years ago and our institutions, communities, homes and workplaces no longer fit. It ends with the question: How are we going to rethink them? In between, some of America’s most enlightened thinkers on aging add their two cents.

“What if we reimagined our standard life course?”

“Coming of Age in and Aging America” is part of a multi-year PBS project that goes by the same name. Eventually, it will incorporate a TV documentary,  interactive website and online community.  The goal: To launch a national conversation about our new reality.

What would you most like to see change as our society ages? Let’s have our own discussion in the comments area – scroll down!




  • FloridaGal

    i will turn 66 this year. I took a new job just over a year ago and committed to stay in the job for ten years. I love my new job and it is very easy for me to do because I have 40 years experience in similar jobs. I’ve seen all the problems before and solved them and my younger boss has rated me “outstanding”..A lot of my coworkers are in their early 60s. One man just retired at 75. If my health permits, I will keep the job for the next 9 years as I agreed. Working keeps me mentally alert, brings in money so I can defer collecting on my social security until I am 70, and gives me a new circle of friends.If I retired at this point, I would just sit at home reading and put on weight. I enjoy the problem solving of this job and it keeps me mentally alert.
    I think you will see more seniors moving to the cities. If you are in an apartment building with a doorman and porters and can order food to be delivered, that’s as good as assisted living and you don’t need a car

    • Barbara, Senior Planet editor

      FloridaGal, thanks for your comment. As you say, staying in a job is about so much more than the paycheck, and it’s great that you’ve found a workplace that values experienced older employees. As for cities, absolutely!

  • Ashton Applewhite

    Good stuff. Carstensen’s model—entering the full-time workforce later and staying in it longer—makes sense. The biggest takeaway is that we’re not looking at a boomer-bulge in the python. The python stays fat. The sooner we quit the reflexive hand-wringing and start dealing with both the promise and the challenge of this massive social shift, the better.

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