Academic journal article Care Management Journals

A Cross-National Comparison of Perceptions of Aging and Older Adults, Part 1: Introduction and Rationale for a Cross-National Comparison of Perceptions of Aging and Older Adults

Academic journal article Care Management Journals

A Cross-National Comparison of Perceptions of Aging and Older Adults, Part 1: Introduction and Rationale for a Cross-National Comparison of Perceptions of Aging and Older Adults

Article excerpt

In this era of cultural differences both among and within countries, we as citizens of the world, are all experiencing a common yet unprecedented demographic phenomenon, population aging. Starting in 2011, every day, 7,000 people in the United States will turn 65 (Baby Boomer, 2010). In addition, the United States is a relative latecomer in comparison to other countries that have already experienced a rise in the proportion of older people. Japan has been the forerunner with 20% of its population are aged 65 years and older for the past 10 years; the United States can expect to reach that percentage in 2030. European countries, such as the United Kingdom and France, are following close behind with currently 17% of their population are aged 65 years and older. Developing countries such as the Dominican Republic, which have historically been "younger" than developed countries, are experiencing an age boom that will have major consequences on their fiscal and social capabilities as, unlike developed countries, developing countries will become older before they become richer (Alvarez, 2000).

This demographic shiftwill affect every country and society as well as every individual and family. The social work profession is best able to assist individuals, families, and societies in meeting the challenges and opportunities of an older population. Not only is it imperative that all social workers have basic knowledge of aging and older people within their own country, but much can be learned from other countries that have already experienced population aging as well as from countries that are just now beginning to experience it. The first step in gaining knowledge from one's own country as well as from other countries is to have an understanding of the countries' perceptions of aging and older people. It is helpful to realize that each country's culture is different from another; there are similarities and there are differences. Knowing what we don't know is the beginning of understanding. This study explores the perceptions of aging and older people among five countries to lay the groundwork to begin to know what we don't know about population aging.

POPULATION AGING AND GLOBALIZATION

The population of the world is growing older. Not only are there more people older than 65 years throughout the world than ever before in human history, but they are also living longer. It is now commonplace for people to live well into their 80s. Prior to the second half of the 20th century, only a rare few lived to celebrate their 80th birthday. Two unprecedented phenomena that began in the 20th century are having a major impact on societies around the world: population aging and globalization (Commission on the Status of Women, 1999). Globalization refers to the process by which economic, financial, technical, and cultural transactions among different countries and communities throughout the world become increasingly interconnected and embody common elements of experience, practice, and understanding (Pearson, 2000). These two phenomena are already having an impact on societies around the world as governments struggle to keep abreast of changing demographics and dynamics. The United Nations has twice recognized the need for governments to work together to establish international plans of action on aging. The first World Assembly on Ageing took place in Vienna in 1982, and the second World Assembly on Ageing convened in Madrid in 2002. Both assemblies are evidence that world governments acknowledge that population aging affects economies and public policies and that collaborative efforts will assist societies in meeting the global and local needs of older citizens. Although governments can learn from each other and share information on public policies, it is important to consider that culture plays a role in developing and implementing public policy. One aspect of a country's culture is how its citizens view aging within the context of its increasing older population. …

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