AND CARE FOR
Emily K. Abel
Women seem able to five for years without companions . . . but an old man is more fragile. If he has a wife of his own age, he is very lucky; having a daughter is the next best thing, but any woman in the house is better than none if she can cook and make beds.
-- Malcolm Cowley, "Being Old Old"
The topic of parent care recently has captured the attention of the mass media. Within one month in the spring of 1985, for example, Newsweek devoted a cover story to the emotional and financial toll of caring for aging parents, 1 PBS sponsored a special program on Frontline entitled, "What About Mom and Dad?" 2 and Ellen Goodman wrote a syndicated column about replacing the burdens of childcare with those of parental care. 3
A dramatic demographic shift amply justifies the concern bestowed on this issue. The elderly represented just 4 percent of the population in 1900 but grew to 11 percent in 1980. By the year 2030, it is projected, those over the age of sixtyfive will constitute almost one-quarter of the total population. 4 The rate of increase of the very old, who are most at risk of sickness and dependency, is particularly striking. Although the population aged sixty-five and over is expected to rise by 28 percent during the next twenty years, those over the age of seventyfive are expected to increase by 53 percent and those over eighty-five by a star