Today, on National Senior Citizens Day, it is imperative we acknowledge the contributions made by our older grandparents, parents, family, friends, and neighbors. However, it is important to realize that our seniors still have much to offer. As we move into the next few decades and beyond, this population segment will only grow in importance.
Recent census data estimates there are 44.7 million Americans age 65 and above, a number expected to multiply to 98.2 million by 2060, making up almost one quarter of the population. Additionally, Americans are growing older on the whole. By 2033, there will be more seniors than people under 18, and United Nations projections show median national age will rise about seven years to almost 45 by 2100.
It is clear the contributions of seniors do not cease on their 65th birthdays. Many seniors are working later into life; the annual growth rate of senior labor force participation rate is 2.2% annually, in contrast with declining rates overall. Life expectancy also continues to rise.
Politicians, economists, business leaders, and others must recognize that seniors are vital to our health as a nation. We must make sure advances are made to ease the challenges wrought from aging, including: social and physical isolation, deteriorating health and cognition, and financial vulnerability. The latter is an often-unrecognized challenge, though cost estimates are up to $36.48 billion per annum, and is one area of focus of the World Economic Forum work on aging.
These trends and challenges are already presenting the opportunity for myriad changes in technology, business practices, and healthcare, among other areas.
At the same time, our seniors are greater than statistics can quantify. Recent literature such as Mindy Greenstein and Jimmie Hollands Lighter as We Go and the Institute of Medicines (IOM) Report on Cognitive Aging remind us that seniors are a wealth of information and perhaps most importantly, experience and wisdom. Lighter As We Go includes a pertinent quote from Dr. Linda Fried, imploring us to remember: older adults constitute the only increasing natural resource in the world. On August 21, let us celebrate this resource, and take the time learn from, congratulate, and appreciate our seniors.
Are you lucky enough to have a grandparent or older family friend as a role figure or mentor? Or does your organization provide an innovation that targets senior citizens and their well-being? We would love to hear from you!
Image credit: Seniors Real Estate Institute