The Pardee Papers, No. 6, August 2009
By Alexandra Crampton
August 2009 (25 pages)
Aging policy frameworks were devised during a demographic and economic context in which population aging seemed confined to wealthy nations. These countries could afford retirement policies that supported older workers, decreased unemployment among younger workers, and decreased family pressure to provide old age care. This calculation was based in part on failure to anticipate three demographic trends: continual decline in fertility below replacement rate, continual gains in longevity, and the rise of population aging in poor and “under- developed” countries. These three trends now fuel a sense of crisis. In the global North, there is fear that increasing numbers of older adults will deplete state pension and health care systems. In the global South, the fear is that population aging coupled with family breakdown” requires such state intervention. Natural disaster metaphors, such as “agequake” and “age-tsunami,” illustrate fears of a “graying globe” in which population aging implies population decay and economic destruction. Yet, global aging trends develop over decades and are not easily reversed. Longer-range trends can be addressed through revising policy frameworks to incorporate how growing old is moving from global exception to expectation.
Alexandra Crampton was a 2008–2009 Postdoctoral Fellow at the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future and is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Sciences at Marquette University. Her scholarship and teaching bring an anthropological perspective to theoretical and practical questions on aging, social welfare policy, social work practice, negotiation, and alternative dispute resolution. She has presented her work for the American Anthropological Association, the Gerontological Society of America, the Council on Social Work Education, and the Society for Social Work Research. She holds a joint PhD in Social Work and Anthropology from the University of Michigan.