Towards a New Era in Aging and Social Work
Among the most complex issues to engage policy makers in the United States in this and in coming decades will be approaches to con-
tinue to assure the economic security of an aging population, to seeure and sustain affordable access to health care inc1uding prescription drugs, and to assist families with the costs and care requirements entailed in providing long term care, whether informally or through formal service programs and institutions. Because of their economic scope and social implications, these are issues that will broadly impact the quality of life of all Americans, irrespective of age. They are among a growing number of thorny issues raised by population aging that are being examined and deliberated by multiple sectors-from finance to defense and health-of the international community. The influence of global perspectives and discussions of these much broader, multi-sectoral issues upon how health and social policy issues and feasible options are defined cannot be underestimated. This artic1e is intended to provide a cursory introduction to some of the complex issues that are inevitable as aging concerns are further defined as among one of the broadest-reaching international challenges for the 21st century. It briefly notes other converging forces that have already begun to shape health and social policies, programs, and services within the United States, although less perceptibly than might be expected in the future, and it asserts that these can offer the social work profession the opportunity to strengthen its practice and relevance. Most importantly, it argues that the social work profession must come to terms with population aging as a reality and determine whether it has the interest and the will to be a visible, evidence-driven player in circ1es that will establish and articulate the policy agenda and alternatives which will inevitably affect social work practice.