Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The boom in ‘young’ old

Try this for a contradiction.

The American population of so-called oldsters is increasing rapidly, but so, too, is the phenomenon of seniors' claiming to feel far younger than their years.

In a nationwide poll divided between people 18 to 64 and those over 65, the Pew Research Center found that among the 65-to-74 group, only 21 percent replied they feel "old," and among those over 75, only 35 percent feel aged.

Another statistic: The 13 percent of Americans who're now 65 and older will leap to 20 percent of the population—1 in 5 of all Americans—by 2050.

There's good news to be read into these numbers.

First, feeling younger than their years means more seniors are healthier and taking care of themselves, which statistically should significantly improve public health costs.

Second, young-feeling oldsters constitute a huge pool of potential volunteers to lend a hand with the wide array of public services that are shorthanded and underfunded.

Imagine the number of professionals—health-care professionals and teachers, to name just two groups—who could be enticed by their country to return, if only a few hours each week, to jobs that would improve the lives of the needy and under-served.

Volunteerism can be a powerful tool to a nation in need, and is there any doubt of the need today?

With his flair for moving people, President Obama could stake out another priority of his White House: mobilizing volunteers from our "young" oldsters to do their own version of a bailout.

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