Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Student paper on aging

Here is a short descriptive paper by a student.

Defining Aging

    Obviously, part of life involves growing older. It is a process that some people dread, and other people embrace and accept. Consequently, when it comes to defining aging and at what point someone is “old” there is a lack of clarity. However, a couple distinctions have been made to create categories. One category is considered the “young”; this consists of people ages 65-74 and the people in this group are still fairly active and do not experience very many restrictions (Popple & Leighninger, 2011).  The other category is termed the “old old;” the individuals in this group may be considered frail, and suffer from serious health issues, and are in need of a variety of social services (Popple & Leighninger, 2011).

Historical Context & Policy Development

    Perceptions of old age and the elderly have shifted throughout American history. Early in our history, the elderly were seen as an asset to a developing nation  (Popple & Leighninger, 2011). Although the elderly were held in a little more esteem than they may be today, it was still generally known that old age brought on pain. The shift to a more negative view of the elderly occurred by the mid-1800’s. There are a couple different thoughts as to what brought on this negative perception. One reason is that new technology was developing, and the knowledge that the elderly had was perceived as outdated (Popple & Leighninger, 2011). The other thought as to the change is credited to the intellectual shift of Social Darwinism, which emphasized the survival of the fittest (Popple & Leighninger, 2011). At this time, science and technology were providing answers to people about life, which previously came from the older generations. Therefore, the ideas of the elderly became less important.

By the 1890’s, a large portion of the elderly lived in big cities, which is where there was a perceived welfare problem growing (Popple & Leighninger, 2011). It was in the 1800’s that retirement  programs were developed; the elderly were seen as less productive workers, and retirement pensions allowed the companies to pay off their older workers (Popple & Leighninger, 2011). Due to a lack of care from adult children, and resources, the number of elderly who were institutionalized at this time increased (Popple & Leighninger, 2011). 

When the great depression struck in 1929, the elderly were particularly at risk, which influenced Roosevelt’s New Deal welfare programs such as Social Security (Popple & Leighninger, 2011). Eventually, a program was established that assisted the needy elderly and established a social insurance for people 65 years old and older; this was known as the Social Security Act of 1935 (Popple & Leighninger, 2011).  The Social Security Act 1935 was based on an idea that people “paid into” this fund throughout their working lives (both employers and employees).  Over time, various changes were made to this act in order to include more people, which bring us to today in which almost all retired people qualify (Popple & Leighninger, 2011).

Another policy that has been developed was the Older Americans Act of 1965. This act brought together a partnership of federal, state, local public and private agencies that provided various services for the elderly (Popple & Leighninger, 2011).  Additionally, in 1970 Congress created the Supplementary Security Income program which took over the old age assistance programs that had been run by the state, and provides services for the needy elderly (Popple & Leighninger, 2011). Today, there is concern in regards to the sustainability of these programs, especially social security.  The fear is that the government is giving out more money than they are taking in, which would mean Social Security would run out.  However, there is debate as to how dire the situation really is.  Other analysts note that the baby boomer generation has earned more than their parents; therefore they have accumulated more savings (Popple & Leighninger, 2011).

Aging. (2011). In Social Work, Social Welfare, and American Society (8th ed., pp. 542-575). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

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