You don’t often hear about how much older adults contribute to society. That’s a shame.
It allows the aging of American to be portrayed as a story of dependency: the reliance of the old upon the young. Instead, the truth is that the generations are inter-dependent, each benefiting the other.
This was one of the themes articulated during AHCJ’s recent webcast with three members of the MacArthur Network on an Aging Society, a group of prominent academics exploring the opportunities as well as the challenges associated Americans’ increased life spans.
Julie Zissimopoulos, associate director of the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California, described a framework for understanding how much support older adults get and how much they give in turn. (Resources and PowerPoint presentations from the webcast are available here.)
In the “here’s what they get” column, she put government health programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, benefits from the department of Veterans Affairs, food stamps, programs supported through the Older Americans Act, and informal caregiving, largely from children and spouses, among other smaller items.
Total that up and it comes to $916 billion in public expenditures for older Americans in 2010.
In the “here’s what they give” column, Zissimopoulos included income taxes (federal and state), payroll taxes and property taxes that older adults pay, gifts and inheritances that they pass on to family and friends, the informal care they provide to spouses, elderly parents and children, and the many hours they spend volunteering, among other items.
Total that up and it comes to $646 billion in contributions by older Americans, also in 2010.
The difference, $316 billion, is a lot of money but by no means the enormous, out-of-proportion give-away portrayed by some. And the reality is all of society shares an interest in controlling health care costs, the largest item in the “debit” column for older adults.
Another theme of the web chat revolved around one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century – the extension of the human life span by more than 30 years, largely because of improvements in public health as well as advances in science and medicine. Continue reading