The plight of the elderly with relation to political movements and programs

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This paper examines the role of various political movements that have effect on the status of the elderly in USA. The increase in the number of elderly population in United States of America has made it important that this chunk is extended help and support in various ways. The role of AGE, AARP and other movements and policies for the elderly have been discussed .The role OAA and programs under it play has also been mentioned.

The median age in the country has increased from 30 in 1980 to 36.8 in the year 2008 (US Census Bureau), which is to say that the American  population is getting older by the day. The reason for this increase in the age is majorly due to the surge in the numbers that is 65years and over in age. It has jumped from 25,550 thousand in 1980 to 38,870 thousand in the year 2008( US Census Bureau). By the year 2030 the number of persons aged 65 and older will be about 70 million and constitute nearly 20 per cent of the population. (Binstock, 1998).  This is certainly not a demographic that can be casually dismissed and therefore needs to be a priority area in the agenda of any government. However, history tells us that little has been achieved without the requisite push from the citizens in question or someone voicing concerns on their behalf. This brings us to the importance of political movements, interest groups and programs that help in improving the condition of this vulnerable group of population.

Although the history of political movements for the elderly in America roughly began in the 1930s,  many trends have been observed since then; contemporary scenario has been aptly put by the Oxford Journal of Epidemiology:

Conceptualizing populations in terms of dependent and independent sub-groups has facilitated what is termed the intergenerational equity debate. On the one (and dominant) side are those who argue that the aged are getting more than they deserve from the public purse. Along with some academic research/ writing—such as Samuel Preston’s Presidential Address to the Population Association of America in the early 1980s and the work of economists on what is called generational accounting —a US political movement

(AGE—Americans for Generational Equity) has become quite influential.20 By pitting age groups against one another with regard to public resources, the proponents of generational equity have been an  important force in welfare reform that is based in demographic alarmism. Assisting in this process has been the tendency to homogenize people on the basis of age.

In the process of “homogenizing”, AGE has taken the onus of taking a fresh look at the issues of healthcare, sustainability, taxes and savings policy.

The Senior Rights Movement also brought to fore the issues concerning the elderly through associations like American Associations of Retired Persons (AARP). It’s mission statement says it is “dedicated to enhancing quality of life for all as we age. We lead positive social change and deliver value to members through information, advocacy and service.” ( )  Such social organizations have helped  in a major way in making the issues of the elderly public (Beard and Williamson).  Beard and Williamson also point out in their paper that:

The second largest mass-membership group, originally called the Senior Citizens for Kennedy, was transformed  into the National Council of Senior Citizens (NCSC) in 1961 by the Democratic National Committee and the labor unions. By persuading Democrats that seniors were a significant electoral constituency, NCSC summoned a crucial turning point in the political clout of seniors. Efforts to achieve further old-age policy reforms were strengthened by the formation of a successful alliance between labor organizations, namely the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), and the emerging senior organizations.

The government has also contributed in improving the plight of the elderly through the Social Security Act passed in the year 1935, which provided Old Age Assistance and Old Age Survivors Insurance ( There are in all 19 Old Age Assistance federal grants, grants and loans extended by the government (

Some programs under the OAA are — Foster Grandparent Program, Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, Social Security-Special Benefits for Persons Aged 72 and Over and Supplemental Security Income.( Later in the year 1965 The Older Americans Act was signed into law. This act established the Administration on Aging within the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and called for the creation of State Units on Aging (

Seemingly, a lot might already be there on the platter but still a lot needs to be done in this concern. There is a certain alleged illiteracy and misconception by focusing on demographic changes and financing mechanisms rather than the real problems of low wages and the failure to contain rapidly increasing health care costs (Beard and Williamson).

Furthermore, current fixation on recession-based deficits rather than recovery denies the fact that our nation can provide social support (i.e., investment in children, workers,

and public infrastructure) without compromising the welfare of seniors (Beard and Williamson). That we have long-known about the eventual need to reform and improve Social Security cannot be overshadowed by the present economic climate, since increases in employment rates alone will not solve the problem (Beard and Williamson). Therefore, there is an urgent need for a comprehensive view of the same and a need to act accordingly.

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  1. American Associations of Retired Persons. Retrieved from
  2. Beard, R. L., & Williamson, J. B., Social policy and the internal dynamics of the senior rights movement, Journal of Aging Studies (2010), doi:10.1016/j.jaging.2010.08.008
  3. Binstock, R H (1998). Public Policies on Aging in the Twenty-First Century Retrieved from
  4. Federal Grants Wire. Old Age Assistance Federal Grants. Retrieved from
  5. History of the Older Americans Act, Chronological Evolution of National Older American Act Programs and State of Oregon Programs. Retrieved from
  6. M Gee Ellen, Misconceptions and misapprehensions about population ageing. Oxford Journal of  Epidemiology, Volume 31, issue 4. Retrieved from
  7. US Census Bureau. Resident Population by Sex and Age: 1980 to 2008. Retrieved from
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