Spring 2015

Successful Aging of Societies

As America passes through an unprecedented demographic transformation, policy-makers are preoccupied with the coming stresses on the future of Medicare and Social Security. This strain is pulling attention away from important broad-based issues including productivity in late life – work, retirement, and volunteering – human capital development such as lifelong education and skills training, intergenerational relations within society and the family, rising inequality, and lack of opportunity. Equally important, there is almost no acknowledgment of the substantial benefits and potential of an aging society.

Image:
Indian photographer G. B. Mukherji’s award-winning photograph “Tibetan Grandfather” portrays how tight intergenerational family bonds can facilitate communal security and cohesion. Although Tibetans living in exile in India face an uncertain future, their devotion to family serves as a source of strength and hope. © by G. B. Mukherji/Generations United.
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Image:
Indian photographer G. B. Mukherji’s award-winning photograph “Tibetan Grandfather” portrays how tight intergenerational family bonds can facilitate communal security and cohesion. Although Tibetans living in exile in India face an uncertain future, their devotion to family serves as a source of strength and hope. © by G. B. Mukherji/Generations United.
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Successful Aging of Societies

As America ages, policy-makers’ preoccupations with the future costs of Medicare and Social Security grow. But neglected by this focus are critically important and broader societal issues such as intergenerational relations within society and the family, rising inequality and lack of opportunity, productivity in late life (work or volunteering), and human capital development (lifelong education and skills training). Equally important, there is almost no acknowledgment of the substantial benefits and potential of an aging society. The MacArthur Foundation Research Network on an Aging Society offers policy options to address these issues and enhance the transition to a cohesive, productive, secure, and equitable aging society. Such a society will not only function effectively at the societal level but will provide a context that facilitates the capacity of individuals to age successfully. This volume comprises a set of papers, many of which are authored by members of the MacArthur Network, focusing on various aspects of the opportunities and challenges facing the United States while it passes through its current demographic transformation. This essay provides a general overview of the strategy the Network has used to address the various components of this broad subject.