The graying of America is a hot topic these days. As the population ages, there are more and more discussions about what this means for our country – economically, politically, and socially. But what is the graying of America exactly? And why is it happening? In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at both of those questions. We’ll also explore some of the potential implications of an aging population and offer some tips on preparing for the graying of America. So read on to learn more.
Graying of America is the aging of the American Population. The term ‘graying’ represents a growing trend in which people live longer, and societal demographics undergo significant changes.
Why does graying happen?
Aging happens as a result of better health care, access to food and water, and improved medical treatments. These things mean one can live longer than ever before. Most scientists who study this phenomenon agree that an average human can now live past 120 years old.
At least five factors contribute to people living longer
- Advances in medicine and technology (e.g., vaccines) reduce death rates among children; children are now expected to survive until their 20s
- Advances in medicine and technology (e.g., antibiotics) reduce death rates among adults; women are now expected to live until their 80s, men can expect to live into their 70s
- Improved sanitation, access to clean water, and proper hygiene reduces death rates across the board; this contributes more than anything else
- Improved nutrition across all socioeconomic classes results in taller people who are healthier; height is correlated with longevity; people of European descent (white people) are taller on average than other groups.
- Improvements in education mean that everyone has access to information about what lifestyles contribute most significantly to living longer; it’s not just rich people who learn how to make healthy choices.
Additionally, graying can be attributed to many things that influence social change. For example:
- Fewer babies are being born – there were an estimated 4 million births in the United States in 2009, and this number is expected to reach a low of 2 million by 2035.
- Elderly people no longer need children around as much as they used to; retired parents do not rely on their kids as much as before.
- There has been a trend toward women working outside the home for most of their lives now; some wait until after they retire from work before having children or getting married.
- The percentage of Americans who live past 100 continues to increase; there were more than 36,000 people in the United States aged 100 or older by 2010.
- More and more Americans are choosing to live alone; men, women, black people, white people, rich people, poor people – no one is immune from this trend; many think that this contributes significantly to the negative economic issues facing America today (e.g., lack of tax revenue because of low population growth despite a bigger pool of working adults).
It is essential to note that graying cannot be attributed to just 1 factor. Several different factors are influencing social change at any given time. For example, while aging may affect human resources departments today (which will be discussed later), the environment likely exerted some influence on human resources in the past and will likely influence them in the years to come.
Let’s examine how graying is expected to influence each key stakeholder:
Aging consumer numbers mean that businesses need to adjust their strategies accordingly, such as marketing towards mature consumers (older people). For example, companies like AARP offer discounts for senior citizens; this helps businesses retain existing customers while at the same time broadening their customer base and increasing revenue.
Generally speaking, investors may benefit from aging populations because older adults tend to be more financially stable than young adults. Since only a minority of Americans have life insurance policies, it follows that those who are older (i.e., closer to death) usually have more money than younger people do.
The government may benefit from an aging population because the elderly typically pay much higher taxes than young adults due to income, real estate, and sales tax increases associated with the rising costs of their medical care. At the same time, there is less pressure on social welfare programs like Medicaid and Social Security; because people are generally healthier in old age, they tend not to use these programs as often. Fewer Americans were enrolled in Medicaid in 2011 compared with 2002 – this is a promising sign for health care reform efforts. However, this also means fewer people will be paying into Social Security, so it is safe to assume that Social Security taxes will increase significantly over the next few decades.
The elderly tend to visit doctors more often than young adults do; doctors need to be prepared for this. They may need to invest in medical equipment (e.g., MRI machines) and possess strong business management skills so they can effectively manage their practice’s cash flow and expenses, which are likely to rise due to aging population trends. By the same token, because there are fewer young people around, there will be an increase in demand for pediatricians.
It should come as no surprise that aging populations create challenges for human resources departments – all of these baby boomers have to be hired, managed, and retained. This is a challenge because many older workers are closer to retirement age than younger people are, so it follows that businesses will need to focus on proactive retention strategies not just for their older employees but also the younger ones.
Suffice it to say; several stakeholders have much at stake as graying continues. America’s growing graying population leads us to our next question.
The Graying of America is an issue facing the US in the next few decades. It’s essential to consider this when planning for your retirement, healthcare, and other related issues. We’ve provided a brief overview of what it means to “gray” and some strategies you can use now to prepare yourself for these changes. Call us if you have any questions about our blog post or how we might help with your retirement plan.