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Category: Trends / Topics: Demographics

Senior Predicament

by Dan Seagren

Posted: November 25, 2012

Experts are not sure if seniors are better off today than yesterday…

Experts are not sure if seniors are better off today than yesterday. One estimate said that 35% of seniors in 1969 lived in poverty while only 9% did so in 2010 (Census Bureau figures). This is known as the 'new generation gap.' Another source said that one-third of seniors today are doing well, one-third are living on social security, and one-third somewhere between.     

Others say there is a war between the young and the old and the young are losing. They say that young Americans are in trouble only they don't know it: "You've been taken for a ride by your elders." Yet people say that this past century has been synonymous with seniors being poor, anything but a golden age, on fixed incomes with mounting health problems. 

Even so, say some, something is happening in more recent years as seniors have seen their fortunes rise while other groups have suffered. Yet in the past 20-30 years defined-benefit pensions have been disappearing. Most working-class people aren't able or motivated to save a whole lot for retirement and those who who have, have income linked to the stock market.

Other voices say "we can't afford to have people spend 30 years in retirement playing shuffleboard and watching television." With more and more seniors delaying retirement, keeping their jobs or moving into other vocations rather than avocations, the job market is affected. Aging-in-place is a challenging topic and seniors are not always considered an economic engine which may be a mistake. 

Yet society at one timed envied those DINKs (double income, no kids) only to witness a decline in marital longevity with its accompanying challenges. Ironically, when social security was added to the financial curriculum, it was set at 65 but longevity had only climbed to barely 64. Somehow, people are living longer and social security now covers considerably more than seniors. 

Society changes, at times rapidly. Even less than a century ago, most seniors had no concept of retirement. Urbanization began to replace agriculture where the elderly worked as long as possible. Families were considerably larger with one so-called gainfully employed with a spouse (and kids) who shared in many chores inside and out. Today, life is much more complex, more difficult than ever to maneuver wisely in ascertaining its strengths and weaknesses. And trends as illustrated in this column struggling to visualize a senior, senior moment, with some accuracy. And insight. 


Dan Seagren is an active retiree whose writings reflect his life as a Pastor, author of several books, and service as a Chaplain in a Covenant Retirement Community.

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Posted: November 25, 2012

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