The Social Needs of an Aging Population
WHEN abrupt changes occur in the population content of a community, the impact is likely to be so evident as to force attention on the social changes necessary to meet the new need. When, for example, the establishment or rapid expansion of an industry in a town brings with it a sudden migration of workers, many of whom have young children, the need for additional housing suitable for family occupancy, and for increased school facilities is obvious.
If it appears that the United States has been relatively slow to recognize the social implications of an aging population, the reasons are not difficult to understand. While figures showing increased numbers of older persons may sound startling when quoted in terms of the last century, the half century, or even the last decade, the trend has been gradual, and the changes subtle rather than dramatic. Furthermore, the social upheavals of our time--two major wars and a vast depression--have tended to focus attention on other groups. The special problems of older people have been obscured by those of young children in disrupted families, teen-agers, service men, and veterans--groups whose needs have seemed to be more dramatic and immediately pressing. There has also been a feeling of pessimism about working out positive solutions to the problems of the elderly-- a pessimism rapidly being demonstrated as unwarranted--but still persisting.