Aging, like the climate crisis, is one of those unpleasant realities that we Americans would prefer to ignore. But, just like the climate crisis, aging realities roll on whether we like them or not (reality in general is funny that way; it doesn’t give a damn how we feel about it). The only real questions are how long we may take to wake up, and how well we will respond when we finally do.
Despite all the hype about how “70 is the new 50,” how “older” Americans can live healthy, active, and fulfilling lives well into their ’80s, ’90s, and even beyond, not to mention the steady expansion of strategies, substances, and tech innovations aimed at keeping the scary monster of “old age” at bay until we breathe our last – despite it all, we face a large and growing number of disabled, highly dependent, and in many cases demented, old people. Increasingly, too, these dependent oldsters are poor (or rapidly become poor in the process of trying to maintain some measure of health and dignity) and have fewer children and other family members to rely on than generations past.
The demographics are stark, yet there appears to be virtually no public policy planning regarding the extraordinary challenges ahead. If anything, with a political environment hostile to social welfare and poor people generally, we are in worse condition to confront these challenges than we were forty years ago, before neoliberal policy orthodoxy took firm hold.