August 21 was named “National Senior Citizens Day” in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan and a joint resolution of Congress and, and for the last 32 years the day has been celebrated not only in the United States but around the world. While not a national holiday, it is a day that continues to be observed with people taking time out of their busy schedules to visit and spend time with their senior friends and loved ones.
In his Presidential Proclamation Reagan said “Throughout our history, older people have achieved much for our families, our communities, and our country. That remains true today, and gives us ample reason to reserve a special day in honor of the senior citizens who mean so much to our land.”
While he observed that the population of seniors was growing as the baby boom generation approached middle age and beyond, he did not foresee that that population would make up the large proportion of the citizenry that it currently does.
According to Jonathan Vespa, a demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau, “The aging of baby boomers means that within just a couple decades, older people are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history. By 2035, there will be 78 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.7 million under the age of 18.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the ratio of older adults to working-age adults—also known as the old-age dependency ratio—is projected to rise as the population ages. The Census Bureau estimates that by next year, there will be about three-and-a-half working-age adults for every retirement-age person; and by 2060, that ratio will fall to just two-and-a-half working-age adults for every retirement-age person. The median age of the U.S. population is expected to grow from age 38 today to age 43 by 2060.
“Although births are projected to be nearly four times larger than the level of net international migration in coming decades, a rising number of deaths will increasingly offset how much births are able to contribute to population growth,” the Census Bureau reports. “Between 2020 and 2050, the number of deaths is projected to rise substantially as the population ages and a significant share of the population, the baby boomers, age into older adulthood. As a result, the population will naturally grow very slowly, leaving net international migration to overtake natural increase as the leading cause of population growth, even as projected levels of migration remain relatively constant.”
Given that people are living longer and the elder population is increasing, it seems a good thing that so many older people remain active and productive as they age. As a society we should do all we can to encourage their continued contributions to the community.
As said in Reagan’s proclamation, “For all they have achieved throughout life and for all they continue to accomplish, we owe older citizens our thanks and a heartfelt salute. We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older—places in which older people can participate to the fullest and can find the encouragement, acceptance, assistance, and services they need to continue to lead lives of independence and dignity.”