Aging and the Economy

Aging and the Economy

Aging and the Economy

Aging and the Economy

Excerpt

Harold L. Orbach and Clark Tibbitts

It is little more than twenty-five years since the problem of economic security for the nation's older population was dramatically brought to the center of public concern as a consequence of the spectacular rise of the Townsend movement. Prior to this, while there had been growing concern over the need for economic security in old age, represented by the existence of a number of state old-age pension programs and various federal relief measures, and while a detailed study of the total problem had been undertaken by the President's newly created Committee on Economic Security, the older person's plight had not achieved the status of an urgent major issue in the public arena. Almost overnight, another dramatic issue requiring public action was recognized and made a part of the tremendous reforms in American society which were taking place in the shadow of the mass unemployment of the great depression.

Within the short period of the mid-1930's a fundamental change in approach was evolved and enacted into law, and a vast institutional framework for dealing with the economic problems of the aged was established. The Social Security Act of 1935 stands today as a landmark in our national policy. Yet the economic goals it advanced have yet to be fully realized. The advent of World War II and the period of economic prosperity which followed have resulted in basic modifications in its structure. What began as a form of social insurance for wage-workers was universalized to include almost the entire national labor force. The entire phenomenon of the aging of our population became a matter of new and heightened consciousness as the rapid increase in the number of older persons and the mounting problems accompanying the meeting of a new and distinct set of needs and demands aroused the attention of government, private and voluntary organizations, and the public.

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