What does the term "Graying of America" mean?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #1)

The term “graying of America” refers to the fact that the American population is steadily becoming more dominated by older people.  In other words, the median age of Americans is going up.  Therefore, the population of America as a country is getting older.

After World War II, the United States entered a period that is known as the “baby boom.”  During this time, American couples had relatively large numbers of children.  This created a demographic bulge, an age cohort with a large number of members compared to those which had gone before it and which came after it. 

Today, those baby boomers are reaching retirement age.  Because there are more of them than there are of younger generations, America's population is growing older.  This means that the sorts of issues that are important in the United States are changing.  We have to think more about how we will support the growing population of older people.  We have to focus more on medical care for the aged. 

Thus, the “graying of America” is a process in which America’s population is getting older.  This change impacts on our economy, our society, and our politics. 

shake99's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #2)

The “graying of America” is a problem that affects not only the United States but many countries around the world.

As the above post noted, our population is getting older. Increased average age is not, by itself, the problem. The problem arises when we try to figure out how to take care of the largest retired population in history. Several factors have contributed to this.

For one thing, many countries around the world began to create government entitlements to take care of the elderly at about the same time the baby boom began just after World War II. Nobody realized that we were putting ourselves on the hook for a future full huge government programs like Social Security and Medicaid. As the older citizenry begins to outnumber the younger, there are fewer workers available to support retirees. The money has to come from somewhere, so younger workers have to support a larger share of the bill. 

Secondly, as a greater percentage of the country’s voters become elderly, we are much less likely to be able to pass legislation that will reduce the economic burden created by the above mentioned social programs. We have seen the negative effects of this in recent years in countries such as Greece and Ireland.

Finally, the old family structure morphed in the twentieth century as people became more mobile. Instead of being cared for by their children, and in their children’s homes, more and more Americans relied on the government to pay for their needs.

One proposed solution is to ask workers to stay on the job a few more years, instead of expecting to retire at 65, as has been the custom. This seems like a more likely solution than cutting benefits, although that may well become necessary someday too.

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