The Crisis of America’s Aging Society
By Julia A. Keirns
In the Age Bomb video by Cia Silver, Professor Hiroyuki Murata states that by 2030 most countries on the earth will become an aging society. It is also clear from studying Social Problems that the United States lags far behind other countries in taking good care of their elderly population. When considering that countries like the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, and Japan all have much better systems of caring for their elderly, it makes sense that the United States should follow their examples.
In America, Social Security benefits are dependent upon how much a person works in their lifetime. Most Americans are low-wage earners, so likewise, their benefits are low in their retirement. Other democracies like the Dutch have generous government insurance for medical problems and nursing home care. Their benefits are much better than the American Medicare system. In the Netherlands, elderly citizens receive regular government home health visits and housekeeping aid which allows them to stay independent longer. Other countries provide less expensive or free health care to their elderly, greater financial support in retirement and encourage active aging. This mindset aids the elderly population and helps them be more independent as they age.
The fact that other countries allow their elderly citizens to retire with more dignity by having better income and health care, means their elderly citizens do not have to try to re-enter the work force just to get by. If the elderly do not have to go back to work, they are happier in their retirement and are usually more content. In America, the poor elderly who are just trying to get by face depression due to lack of money. They also must find ways to go back to work and once there they may face age discrimination.
Research suggests that the lives of America’s elderly people would be greatly improved if the United States would adopt some of the policies and practices that other nations have found to be successful. It is common knowledge that the elderly population in America is growing with the aging of the baby boomer population. Therefore, it seems that anything America can do now to benefit its elderly citizens will also help future generations of elderly Americans.
According to an article by Liz Seegert at the Association of Health Care Journalists, the United States ranks as one of the worst countries in the world in elder care vs. other wealthy nations. America’s older adults are sicker and more economically vulnerable than aging citizens of other countries. The future of the health system America currently has is highly questionable with cuts to the Medicare system looming in the near future. America’s Medicare system is already not as generous as comparable insurance in these other countries. If the government cuts the already low benefits, what will be left for the next generation of elderly Americans?
It seems reasonable that other countries realize the benefit of providing for their elderly population reduces healthcare costs in the long run. Eventually those who cannot afford the care they need end up on the Medicaid system anyway, and the government has to pay for their care one way or the other. In the long run, it seems to make sense for the United States to follow successful examples of other democracies as it tries to learn how to better take care of its aging population.
End Note — When considering how other countries take care of their elderly population, we must also take into account what citizens give up in order to have better healthcare as they age, but that is a topic for another article.
Seegert, L. (2017, November 16). U.S. ranks worse in elder care vs. other wealthy nations. https://healthjournalism.org/blog/2017/11/u-s-ranks-worse-in-elder-care-vs-other-wealthy-nations/
Silver, Cia. (2013, November). The Age Bomb. How is Japan Dealing With its Rapidly Aging Population. Journeyman.tv. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=12&v=wF14TCrMN2Q&feature=emb_logo