As members of the baby-boom generation, my husband and I should have expected the caregiving role. Baby boomers are approaching middle age in record numbers and should not be surprised that their parents and their spouses are aging. But, then again, as members of the “Peter Pan” generation of baby boomers who continue to deny our own aging, we all seem surprised when those around us have aged. A caregiving career is certainly not expected for the eternally young, former flower children of the sixties and seventies.
As one who teaches and writes about issues of the sociology of aging, I should certainly have expected the need for caregiving. I have been teaching my undergraduate sociology students about the implications of the graying of our population for more than a decade now. Indeed, the pattern of an increasing number and proportion of elderly persons in the U.S. population is not surprising to students of demography and gerontology. The aging of our population is entirely predictable from a theory of population change used by many demographers to explain the growth in a society’s population. The theory is concerned with the relationship between birth rates, migration, and death rates, and the resulting effects on the age composition of the population. It helps us to understand and predict population trends like the current aging of our population.