While the US races toward its presidential election, it is worth pausing to remember that some really important social issues have already been decided. The demographic changes that are going to remake American society over the coming decades, for example, are already “baked into the cake.”
No matter who wins the elections that conclude next Tuesday, American’s will, on average, become increasingly older as we go forward. When I talk to health care professionals about this I often say “Take a look around you, this is the youngest patient populations you will see for the rest of your career. From here on out– the patients you care for will be older every single year.” Of course I make an exception for the pediatricians and obstetricians but those exceptions help prove the rule.
The cultural importance of this demographic reality will be defined by the story we choose to tell ourselves about these changes. Will the “aging of America” become cause for doom, gloom, ashes and sackcloth? Some are already advancing this agenda (*I’m looking at you Pete Peterson). Others are actually enthusiastic about what aging means for America. They see a future that is rich with the lived experience of elders. They see a flowering of human creativity and compassion.
I’ll be casting my vote on Tuesday and then getting together with friends to follow the returns. On Wednesday, I’ll right back at work Changing Aging— after all– our future depends on it.