14.1 DEMOGRAPHIC TRENDS AND SOCIAL POLICY

Demographic Trends: 2030 • Social Security and Medicare • Current Controversies: Saving Social Security

14.2 HEALTH ISSUES AND QUALITY OF LIFE

Health Promotion and Quality of Life • A Framework for Maintaining and Enhancing Competence • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention • Lifestyle Factors

14.3 SUCCESSFUL AGING

Discovering Development: What Is Successful Aging?

Summary • Review Questions • Integrating Concepts in Development • Key Terms • Resources

WELCOME TO THE LOOK DOWN THE ROAD. IN THIS EPILOGUE, WE TAKE A

different perspective on aging. Based on what we know now about older adults and the process of aging, we look to our own future. We consider what society must do to keep the social programs we have come to rely on. We consider what each of us can do to keep ourselves in the best health possible in order to delay or even prevent some of the negative aspects of aging. And we also look around the corner and ahead a few decades. Technical advances will make commonplace what is only science fiction today. For example, it is likely that we will be able to get our annual physical examination remotely, be in classes or meetings led by someone’s holographic projection because they are actually in another place, and remember fondly those days when you had to spend lots of time downloading movies because the connection speeds were so slow. Our daily lives will likely have vastly different elements from those they have right now. Life undoubtedly will be more complicated. But people are still likely to experience firsthand many of the things discussed in this book: marriage, children, career changes, relocation, personal development, physical and cognitive changes, the loss of friends and loved ones, and so on.

For now, though, we must be content with working with what we do and do not know. Throughout this book we have made predictions about this future and guessed how older people may fare. Some of these predictions are not so happy; for example, as many people live to a very old age, there will be more need for long-term care. Whether we will be able to provide the care for them is very much in doubt. Other aspects of the future may be more positive; for instance, as many people live to very old age there will be a much larger pool of older workers to balance the labor force. These predictions represent our best guess about what life will be like in the next few decades, based on what we know now and what is likely to happen if we continue the way we are going.

The purpose of this epilogue is to pull together several crucial issues facing gerontologists as we move through the 21st century and to illustrate how we can set the best stage for our own aging. This survey will not be exhaustive; rather, we will focus on two things: points that have been singled out for special concern, and areas where major advances may have a dramatic impact on our own development.

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