THE CHALLENGES OF OUR AGING SOCIETY
Century ago only four of every 100 people in the U.S. were age 65 or older. Currently, older adults represent the fastest growing segment of society. As we move into the 21st century, nearly 1 out of every 4 or 5 Americans will be over 65. Maturing baby boomers, better health care and improved lifestyles all contribute to the increasing number of older adults. To meet the needs of our aging population, universities must provide leadership, training, and scientific advances. Efforts must be directed toward the problems of aging, which include diseases and impairments such as osteoporosis, dementia, Parkinsons, glaucoma, mobility impairments, and swallowing disorders as well as the losses and challenges of later life, including widowhood, retirement, caregiving, and relocation. The Institute on Aging (IOA) provides world-class research programs designed to address the causes of these later life problems as well as how they are most effectively treated or prevented. Additionally, the IOA also recognizes the need to focus on the potential of aging - the notable strengths, resources, and vitality of those who are in their 70s and beyond. In this regard, the goal is to understand the many factors (biological, psychological, social) that promote resilience as individuals age and to translate this knowledge to innovative educational and community intervention programs. Importantly, ours is an era of unprecedented opportunity to change the fundamental meaning of "old age."