The Multiple Challenges Arising From Population Aging
The Need for Critical Examination of Individual and Population Aging, Public Health Systems and Social Policy
“Population aging does raise some formidable and fundamentally new challenges, but they are not insurmountable. These changes also bring new opportunities, because people have longer, healthier lives resulting in extended working years, and different capacities and needs. The key is adaption on all levels: individual, organizational and societal” (Bloom et al; 2011, p.1).
Capturing the Realities of Population Aging
This symposium aims to strike a balance in the examination of population and individual aging by exploring the positive potentials of being an older person, while at the same time giving due recognition and attention to intervention strategies for assisting those older people made vulnerable by the passage of time. The symposium planners recognize that the overall success of proceedings will depend upon the extent to which the ensuring discourses and disagreements about modern day aging can advance the gerontological imagination. Some key challenges concern the provision of supportive environments for older adults.
That include but are by no means limited to:
1) Safe, accessible and affordable housing,
2) Support and relief of family and other informal caregivers,
3) Prevention and reduction of elder mistreatment,
4) Participation and empowerment of older people,
5) Elimination of ageism,
6) Focus on evidenced based policy to support the health and well-being of older people,
7) Ethical and political considerations surrounding the increasing longevity of population cohorts,
8) Building educational initiatives into a life course approach to improve health literacy among disadvantaged population groups.
The preceding challenges will require attention by a multitude of professionals and community advocates across a diverse range of areas involving multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary actions that focus on ‘rethinking aging’ within the context of global demographic trends that are changing and shaping the nature and characteristics of societal structures.
More than ever, there is an urgent need for new and realistic conversations relating to aging that include due recognition and understandings of a) the diversity of older populations and b) the need for innovation and quality assurance measures relating to the development and implementation of programs and services for older people that reflect cultural, ethnic and language differences.
The landscape of aging is changing with major implications for education, workforce planning, health and medical care, families, caregivers, advocates, community, and policy makers. For example, serious attention must be given to how new technologies will impact health care policy for older people. The question must be asked ”What types of reform are needed to improve and advance medical education for the 21st century?". At the same time, current and future health care workers will be required to be well trained in the prevention and treatment of non- communicable diseases. Health professionals working to advance the well-being of older adults need exposure to sound conceptual understandings of advocacy including contemporary models that have been successfully used by aged care professionals to improve quality of life outcomes. Health care reforms will necessarily require a rethinking of the nature of ‘professionalism’ in an era of population aging.
There exists an urgent need to critically examine economic and social dimensions of aging. All too often, the economic planning of nations results in the subordination of the heath and social needs of older people. Future research on the implications of aging must give due recognition to the fact that different economic challenges will exist across societies, and as such, policy makers will need to respond accordingly. While population aging should not be deemed a problem, its fiscal and economic consequences will require political and policy actions on many fronts. At the same time, much work remains to be done in relation to a) diversifying the approaches and sources for retirement income and welfare payments b) designing and implementing strategies to broaden working lives along with raising employability outcomes of older people. The matter of drawing upon immigration as a means to deal with population aging also warrants careful examination and deliberation by policy makers. In support of social justice and equity concerns and issues, there is a need to advance rigorous scholarly inquiry that is open and critical in order to map the ever changing terrain of intergenerational relationships and intergenerational solidarity. This symposium calls upon critical gerontologists to play an important role in addressing the shortfalls of conventional gerontology by identifying and addressing ‘gaps in gerontological criticality’ (Katz, 2005,p.11).The key guiding principle of critical gerontology is the emphasis on the interactions and subsequent outcomes between socio-economic class, race, ethnicity and gender. In order to face the challenges as well as taking advantage of the opportunities provided by population aging this symposium encourages contributors to advance new approaches and ways of thinking about ageing and old age. In particular, the voices of older people must be heard and acted upon in the context of human rights in order to ensure that they remain active, respected and valued members of society. The challenge of population aging is clearly articulated in the following statement from the United Nations:
"The challenge for the future is” to ensure that people everywhere can grow old with security and dignity and that they can continue to participate in social life as citizens with full rights”. At the same time “the rights of old people should not be incompatible with those of other groups, and reciprocal intergenerational relations should be encouraged” (United Nations, World Population Ageing 1950-2050, Population Division).
Bloom, D.; Boersch-Supan, A.; McGee, P.; & Seike, A. (2011). Population aging: Facts, challenges, and responses. PGDA Workinfg Paper # 7. California: Harvard Initiative for Global Health.
Katz, S. (2005). Cultural aging: Life course, lifestyle and senior worlds. Petersborough, ON; Broadview Press.