University of North Georgia Research Foundation

Population Aging – Shift the paradigm from Burden to Benefit

Lead Organization

University of North Georgia Research Foundation

Dahlonega, Georgia, United States

http://www.ung.edu

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

By 2030 it is projected that there will be 1 billion older adults worldwide —1 in every 8 of the earth’s inhabitants[1]; for the U.S. the estimate is 1 in every 5[2]. Simultaneous to this population growth we are witnessing the emergence of a new stage of life between adult midlife and old age, spanning several decades and characterized by generally good health, relative financial stability, and an active, engaged lifestyle[3]. The World Health Organization identifies that through investment, this new life stage presents opportunities, and (that) investments can enable the many contributions of older people[4] and shift the paradigm of aging from societal burden to societal benefit.This project builds on the emerging movement and evidence-based and best practice models to expand economic and civic engagement by older adults in order to improve conditions for both themselves and fellow citizens and help shape nations' futures.

Problem Statement

Increased longevity and decreased fertility have resulted in an increasing proportion of the older adults in our populations worldwide. Population aging affects all aspects of society. In our current dialogue there is almost no acknowledgment of the substantial positive aspects of an aging society. Too little attention is paid to the potential upside - the longevity dividend[4]. This upside includes the availability of many young-old adults fully capable of participating productively in society either through the workforce or through civic engagement. With increased life expediencies and more education than their parents, older adults enter retirement with many healthy and productive years ahead and “have the potential to become a social resource of unprecedented proportions by contributing to the life of their communities”[5] Research shows that older people have much to offer, including accrued knowledge, stability, unique creative and problem solving capacities, and increased ability to both manage conflicts and take the perspectives of other age groups into account[4], Older adults are interested in volunteer and paid work that gives them a chance to give back, utilizes their skills, and has an impact[6]. Many evidence-based and best practice models exist and provide road maps for rolling out a nationwide initiative to engage older adults in the economic and social life of our country – a longevity dividend waiting to be tapped.This initiative will both create, and highlight through mass media, the positive civic engagement and work (paid and unpaid) of older adults.

Solution Overview

For monetary and non-monetary reasons, work and engagement are pivotal elements of one’s well-being. Paid work contributes not only to material well-being but also to psychological well-being through social interactions and opportunities for personal and professional growth. Unpaid work, like volunteering, care-giving, and creative work, has been shown to provide these same benefits. Given these positive effects, encouraging and rewarding paid and unpaid work among older adults is a pivotal part of the solution to aging-related health, fiscal and social challenges. The activities envisioned in this proposal have been shown to improve quality of life and the well-being of those engaging in them, contribute to the economy, and reduce healthcare and welfare costs[8].Progress of a paradigm shift towards an "Aging Population Benefits Society", will be documented by increased percentages of adults over the age of 65 participating and engaging in civic service, volunteerism, and, for some, paid work, and the reach of older adults nationally and internationally. We will know we are creating a paradigm shift as we count the numbers of participants and increased positive media publications and decreased negative media publications.Our solution will have broad impact on a large population of older adults across the United States and internationally- and can potentially be scaled up to reach out globally. The benefits of this initiative are societal. Providing opportunities for older adults to remain engaged will positively impact both the older adults themselves as well as provide social and economic benefits to society.

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