News Release 

Preparing for a changing population -- what it means to age successfully

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

April 24, 2019 -- A paper by Columbia Mailman School's John Rowe, MD, Julius Richmond Professor of Health Policy and Aging, in the journal Health Affairs outlines the challenges we face as the U.S. becomes an "aging society." This transformation has major implications for our core institutions which were not designed to support this changing population distribution. The paper, "Challenges For Middle-Income Elders In An Aging Society," is published online.

"While the most disadvantaged are at greatest risk of losses in well-being and economic security, it is apparent that middle-income elders will also face challenges related to education, work and retirement, healthcare and housing in the next 10 years," noted Rowe. "Low savings rates and the added financial burden of longer lives are conspiring to place previously neglected middle income elders at risk of depleting all their resources and becoming entirely dependent on social security toward the end of their lives."

The Research Network on an Aging Society, chaired by Rowe, has been working to identify the elements of a successful adaptation with innovative initiatives to support a large population approaching age 60. They developed the Aging Society Index -- a model for measuring the success of adapting to this demographic transformation based on 5 principal domains:

  • Productivity and Engagement
  • Well-Being
  • Equity
  • Cohesion
  • Security

"While policy makers remain preoccupied with Medicare and Social Security, a far more effective strategy would be to consider all the principal domains of society that affect the capacity of older people to age successfully, and not just the poor," said Rowe.

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The Research Network on an Aging Society was supported by the MacArthur Foundation and the John A. Hartford Foundation.

Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Founded in 1922, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Columbia Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Columbia Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers, including ICAP and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www.mailman.columbia.edu.

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