Aging: A National Perspective
America is a nation that is aging. Elderly persons now comprise the fastest growing segment of the population (Dolan, 1980). Since the baby boom of the 1940s and 1950s, the nation has shifted from a youth-oriented society to an adult-oriented culture. Today, 12.2% of the population is over the age of 65. The increase in the over 65 segment of the population is expected to continue well into the year 2035, when the elderly will comprise 18% of the total population. Within the elderly population, the fastest rate of growth is the “ oldold.” In this age group, over 10 million persons are over 75 years of age. The number of people aged 85 and over has tripled between 1950 and 1970, increasing from 600,000 to 2 million. The number in the 75 to 85 age group has almost doubled. These are the ages in which hospitalization, institutionalization, and an array of long term care services are very high (Farber, 1983).