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Lions Roar : Nov 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2007 79 READY OR NOT, LIKE IT OR NOT, the modern world is tilt- ing steadily toward gerontocracy. Irresistible trends in family life, medical science, public health, fiscal economics, and politi- cal power all run in that direction. In another generation, every industrial society will include more people above the age of fifty than below it, an unprecedented condition. Some nations will take a bit longer getting to that point, but the United States, Western Europe, and Japan are already within sight of senior dominance. Though environmentalists have yet to register the fact, human longevity has now become a central factor in the demography of industrial society, one of the most rapid and massive changes on the part of any species, let alone the species that purports to be the most dominant on the planet. Acknowledging this transition is as simple as recognizing that elders see life from a very differ- ent angle than their children, and so choose different priorities. Age changes people—if not uniformly, then at least in ways The Ecology of Aging PHOTOBYEDKASHI Many people look at the aging population as a problem, but Theodore Roszak thinks it could result in a wiser and more caring society. that can be generally characterized. The senior population has, by and large, left careers and childrearing responsibilities behind. The life of the retired encourages introspection and usually the moderation of consumption habits in favor of a closer focus on home and family, and perhaps on the meaning of life. More- over, seniors in the United States are curious political animals, a strange, perhaps unstable combination of conservatism and liberalism, if not outright populism. Their conservatism stems from their concern for security, but that same concern ties them to large, liberal, entitlements programs. That state of dependen- cy is bound to influence them toward a different allocation of the national wealth than younger citizens might prefer. There is, in short, an ecology to aging. It may be an ecology that makes wisdom a greater factor in the choices we make. Wis- dom is, of course, never guaranteed, but it is at least more likely to appear among those who have a backlog of experience to draw NOV 78-103.indd 79 NOV 78-103.indd 79 8/29/07 2:23:55 PM 8/29/07 2:23:55 PM