The voice of America is one that's older, wiser
By Gary Brown
Copley News Service
We must admit it. We're getting older.
The U.S. Census Bureau sent out statistics noting that the number of people 65 and older in the United States as of July 1, 2005, was 36.8 million - 12 percent of the total population. That's an increase of 457,000 old people between 2004 and 2005.
You can almost hear the nation creak and groan and make other noises my father made every night when he got out of his recliner chair to go to bed.
Still, it's a significant number of people and the old among us are a significant demographic. And it's only going to get more significant. The Census Bureau predicts that the projected population of people 65 and older in 2050 will be 86.7 million people - more than double what it is today.
"People in this age group would comprise 21 percent of the total population at that time," the Census report said.
Certainly older Americans are seeming more and more significant to me the older I get. Already I think it's mighty important to listen to the older generation. Pretty soon I'm going to want to speak for them - at length, telling a lot of stories about the old days and describing many medical conditions.
MONTH OF OUR OWN
President John F. Kennedy was one of the first modern presidents to recognize this importance, according to information supplied by the Census Bureau.
"A meeting with the National Council of Senior Citizens resulted in President Kennedy designating May 1963 as 'Senior Citizens Month,'" said the Census Bureau, "asking the nation to pay tribute in some way to older people across the country."
President Carter, being perhaps more politically correct, despite that "lusting in his heart" admission, promptly changed the name of the period to "Older Americans Month," which was "a time to celebrate those age 65 and older through ceremonies, events and fairs." Old people were being told to stand up on their bad knees and hips and take a bow.
As a result of the efforts of those presidents, we now annually recognize older Americans. Politicians recognize how many of them vote. Retailers recognize how many of them buy. The rest of us recognize how many of them will be forced to leave the financial rewards of their lives to someone, so it might as well be us.
MORE SOBERING STATISTICS
The sad thing is, though, that not all old people actually have much money. In fact, a huge number have too little money. According to the Census Bureau statistics, more than 10 percent of people 65 and older in 2005 - 3.6 million people in the United States - were living in poverty.
The median income of households with householders 65 and older was only $26,036 in 2005. Almost 39 percent of the personal income of people 65 and older came from Social Security payments, the Census Bureau said.
So, even though we've given them a month, and told them to have a good time, we're not making it financially feasible to celebrate much. Apparently, an annual hearty slap on the back is just not helping much.
I don't know what to do to make life easier for older Americans. They might be able to tell us.
But, for that to happen, the rest of us would have to stop just listening to a demographic, and actually start hearing it.
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