Policy Advocacy for an Aging Society: Philanthropy and Social Change

By Torres-Gil, Fernando M. | Generations, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

Policy Advocacy for an Aging Society: Philanthropy and Social Change


Torres-Gil, Fernando M., Generations


The philanthropic sector, with private philanthropic foundations as its primary funding arm, is poised to play a major role in this nation's response to the demographic changes in store for the twenty-first century. If they are to actually affect public opinion and public policy in any important way, foundations must envision a more active and energetic leadership than they currently provide. The next ten to fifteen years will witness important challenges-social, political, economic-mat for aging baby boomers will be a test of character in the face of adversity. Their so-called golden years will require a level of leadership they have yet to demonstrate. Foundations can help prepare this cohort and this nation for that pending crossroads.

The next ten to twenty years may continue to see an abrogation of public responsibility for the social welfare and other needs of vulnerable members of society. The continued shift from the Roosevelt era and its New Deal, through Lyndon Johnson's Great Society to today's "compassionate conservatism" and expressed values of individual responsibility can be seen in the devolution of federal programs like Social Security and Medicare. Many aging baby boomers will be more at risk and more likely to be left to their own devices.

So far, to some extent, foundations have attempted to compensate for the growing gap-between public responsibility and individual risk- but their overall assets (U.S. foundations hold assets of nearly $500 billion) pale in comparison to public funds and public programs. Therefore, the better role for the philanthropic sector might be to work toward reversing the move away from public funding and to reeducate society about the need for a more balanced response to an aging society. Such a balanced response would mean that the public sector assumes responsibility for national needs and the private sector addresses market and entrepreneurial tasks, while individuals assume greater responsibility for planning and saving for retirement.

The question then is, Are foundations and, by extension, philanthropy prepared to use resources to engage in explicit policy advocacy with a commitment to alter the public discourse on how society ought to address the needs of an aging population? Drawing on my experience in government as the Assistant Secretary for Aging in the Clinton administration and in philanthropy as a board member of a number of charitable organizations, I have seen first-hand the evolution in attitudes toward aging as well as how at least one foundation, the California Endowment, is moving the frontiers of policy advocacy. Below, I suggest a conceptual model for community empowerment and policy change.

CHALLENGES OF THE AGING SOCIETY

While it is quite obvious that this country is being fundamentally reshaped by the aging of its population, we as a society have yet to fully accept and begin to plan for this demographic inevitability. A litany of unresolved issues related to aging must be addressed.

The growing fiscal uncertainty of Medicare and Social security and the evisceration of the social safety net in other areas such as welfare reform combine with such private sector changes as the demise of traditional defined-benefit pensions and healthcare coverage for retirees. The private sector is also experiencing a "legacy" crisis of too few workers and too many retirees in old-line corporations like United Airlines, General Motors and Ford, and the steel industry. AU mis points to the coming crisis facing the next large generation of elders: baby boomers. This cohort, who now enjoy the longest life expectancy of any generation thus far, is woefully unprepared to meet its longevity.

One indicator says it all: The savings rate of baby boomers is dose to zero. Granted, many will do well with private investments, accumulated defined-benefit pension plans, and wellfunded 4OIK savings. Others have done well with real estate investments and other forms of entrepreneurship. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Policy Advocacy for an Aging Society: Philanthropy and Social Change
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.