The aging population: a benefit, not burden

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 8, 2012

(BPT) – With life expectancy increasing, the percentage of population over age 60 is booming. By 2030, the population over 60 will be growing 3.5 times as rapidly as the total population, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

While some look at this as a potential burden on the health care industry and society, Greg Sebasky, chairman of Philips North America, looks at this trend as an opportunity. He says this is a time to connect with well-rounded, productive and intelligent people and reap what the Philips Center for Health and Well-Being calls, the “longevity dividend.”

All citizens have an important role to play to ensure everyone has the opportunity to receive this longevity dividend. Here are five steps to take to help shift a perceived burden into a lasting, positive benefit for society:

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1. Appreciate the contributions of older citizens. Saying “thank you” to a family member for sharing a traditional family recipe or to a neighbor for keeping a watchful eye on your home is an easy way to bring to light the every-day dividends.

2. Learn from history. Older citizens have seen more of society’s ups and downs, from a macro world view to a micro family perspective. They have the benefit of experience that can help everyone shape new approaches to challenges faced – whether in the home, at work or around town. Ask for advice and listen to the input.

3. Plug in. Help keep citizens engaged with family and friends by showing them technologies such as email or social media, or bookmark links to helpful websites. Doing so will keep elderly residents connected while maintaining independence.

4. Offer employment. Many newly-retired citizens would benefit from the ongoing mental and social stimulation provided by a workplace, even for a few hours a week. Consider posting jobs at senior community centers so active residents can easily learn about new opportunities.

5. Be an advocate. Speak up at town meetings and keep an ongoing dialog with local officials to consider the aging population in town planning, budgeting and support services. Remind officials of the social capital provided by these important residents, and how considering their needs will help the community as a whole.

By changing perceptions of the elderly’s contributions to the community, society can take the important first step to reaping these positive impacts of the longevity dividend. The Philips Center for Health and Well Being’s Think Tank on Aging Well offers solutions for citizens, non-profits and government officials at