It’s Time to Move Aging/Longevity to the Political Main Stage

The Four Pivotal Transpartisan Issues Clinton and Trump Must Address

EMERYVILLE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#candidates–An age wave is coming that could make or break our nation.

Two-thirds of all the people who have ever lived past the age of 65 in
the entire history of the world are alive today. When our Constitution
was crafted, the average life expectancy in the U.S. was barely 36 years
and the median age was a mere 16. Today, the average life expectancy at
birth is 79 and is steadily rising. In this regard, we are living in
truly unchartered territory and longevity is humanity’s new frontier.

Are we prepared? No. Are the candidates addressing the full force of
this age wave and offering innovative solutions? No.

It’s time to move aging/longevity issues to the political main stage.
These are questions being addressed by Ken Dychtwald, PhD, a
psychologist, gerontologist, documentary filmmaker, author of 16 books,
and founding CEO of Age Wave. Based on his 40 years of research,
dialogue, and analysis, Dr. Dychtwald believes there are four
essential transpartisan issues that must be addressed
if our
newfound longevity is to be a triumph rather than a tragedy.

ISSUE #1: Moonshot neededto beat the diseases of aging before
they beat us.

Until recently, most people died swiftly and relatively young of
infectious diseases, accidents, or in childbirth. Today, pandemics of
heart disease, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes are running
rampant. For example, Alzheimer’s (and related dementias) now afflicts
one in two people over 85, and it has become the nation’s scariest
disease. Just as President John F. Kennedy, in 1961, dedicated the
United States to landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade, we
must set a bold goal of stopping Alzheimer’s within a decade. But our
scientific priorities are woefully out of synch: for every dollar
currently spent on Alzheimer’s care, less than half a cent is being
spent on innovative scientific research. Our doctors are also not
aging-ready. We have more than 50,000 pediatricians, but fewer than
5,000 geriatricians. Only eight of the country’s 145 academic medical
centers have full geriatrics departments, and 97% of U.S. medical
students don’t take a single course in geriatrics.

Questions for the candidates:

  • What bold measures would you take to beat Alzheimer’s before it
    beats us?
  • Shouldn’t it be mandatory for medical and nursing schools to teach
    core geriatric skills to all students?
  • Considering 34 million people are providing care to an elder loved
    one, what changes should be made to the tax code and work leave
    policies to help them out?

ISSUE #2: Averting a new era of mass elder poverty

According to the Government Accounting Office, roughly half (52%) of all
households near retirement (headed by someone age 55+) have NO
retirement savings and about half (51%) of our population have no
pensions beyond Social Security. We could be heading to a future in
which tens of millions of impoverished aging boomers could place
crushing burdens on the U.S. economy. This is not a Democrat or
Republican issue, or something that only impacts “seniors.” It is an
issue that will affect us all. It will have a particularly strenuous
impact on the Millennial generation. On top of this, we are not
fostering financial literacy among the young (many of whom might live
exceptionally long lives). Thirty-seven states require providing sex
education to high school students by law, while only 17 states require
financial education.

Questions for the candidates:

  • How can we cause Americans to save enough to be able to afford
    their longer lives?
  • Describe Social Security and Medicare as you think they should be
    for the Millennial generation. And shouldn’t all young people learn
    about money management in high school?
  • Considering the substantial “asset inequality” among older adults,
    should we affluence test entitlements to give more to those in need
    and less to those who are not?

ISSUE #3: Ending ageism

In Colonial times, elders were respected and honored for their
experience, wisdom and perspective. Now, in our youth-focused society,
gerontophobia (fear of aging and discomfort with older adults) runs
rampant. As a result, institutions across the board—such as urban
planning, education, technology, employment hiring, housing, and popular
media (where advertisers will pay networks far more for a 30-year old
viewer than one who is 60)—are both youth-centric and ageist. For
example, our homes were not built for aging bodies: less than 2% of our
housing stock is built to be safe and accessible for elders (and
one-third of the elderly fall each year). Similarly, the routes of
public transportation were created with young workers, not retirees, in
mind.

Questions for the candidates:

  • How would you propose wiping out the ageism that is pervasive in
    America?
  • How should our communities become more “aging friendly?”
  • As they age, millions of people struggle with mobility and
    transportation—and corresponding social isolation. How should that be
    remedied?

ISSUE #4: Establishing a new purpose for maturity

Today’s retirees feel they are in the best time in their lives to give
back. Going forward, medical science can—and will—increasingly prolong
life. Yet, considering the longevity bonus that retirees enjoy, we
haven’t even scratched the surface in unleashing all of the available
experience, skills and wisdom for the public good. Isn’t it time to
create a compelling national vision for the purpose of all those
additional years? For example, our 68 million retirees currently spend
an average of 49 hours (2,940 minutes) a week watching television.
Ultimately, the problem may not be our growing legions of older adults;
it may be our absence of imagination, creativity, and leadership
regarding what to do with all of this maturity and longevity.

Questions for the candidates:

  • Do we ask too little of our elders?
  • What is your biggest idea for what America’s 68 million retirees
    could be doing to contribute to our society?
  • Why do you think this is the right age for you to be president? Are
    you an aging/longevity role model? How?

An age wave is coming, and we’re not ready. Just as society’s
institutions were grossly unprepared for the baby boom, we have done far
too little to prepare for the coming age wave. Do we as a nation have
the guts and wisdom to ask—and answer—these questions? I believe we do.
Time and time again Americans have proved that we are a creative,
industrious nation with tremendous capacity for improvement and
transformation. I surely hope that the candidates are prepared to
address these critical issues and boldly make the course-corrections
necessary to usher in a healthy and purposeful future of aging.

About Age Wave

Founded in 1986, Age Wave is a pioneer in the exploration of the impact
of the longevity revolution. Under the leadership of Founder/CEO Ken
Dychtwald, PhD, Age Wave advises businesses and non-profits worldwide
about the opportunities and challenges of an aging population.

Contacts

Age Wave
Robyn Reynolds, 510-899-4004
rreynolds@agewave.com