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Graying of the United States

Graying of the United States

The term’ Graying of the United States’ refers to a more than tenfold increase in the population of senior citizens compared to a mere tripling of the people below the age of 65 and the overall population (OpenStax, p. 277). In other words, it is a phenomenon that describes the more significant percentage increase of the population getting older and older. This term was coined after the population of people above 65 years old increased from 3 million in the year 1900 to 33 million in 1994 and then further increased to 36.8 million in 2010 (OpenStax, p.277). The Census Bureau viewed this as a positive trend because Americans live longer. Senior citizens above the age of 90 now make up 4.7% of the senior citizen population, and the U.S. Bureau predicted that this percentage will reach 10% by 2050 (OpenStax, p.277). By 2013, reports showed that 14.1% of the general population in the U.S. was 65 years old and above (OpenStax, p.277).

Additionally, this trend showed that women lived longer than men. This is because, in 2010, it was found that the number of 65-year-old men among one hundred 65-year-old women was 90 (OpenStax, p.277- 278). This statistic also showed eighty 75-year-old men in one hundred 75 years older women and only sixty 85-year-old men among one hundred 85-year-old women (OpenStax, p.278).

Baby Boomers

Baby boomers refer to the cohort born between 1946 and 1964 and are now in their seventies. According to OpenStax (2017), baby boomers were the first group of teenagers and children with their spending power and marketing power. The groups have grown to define what it means to be old, middle-aged, and young. They considered the previous generation old and did not want to get old.

Ways in which Elders are a Hindrance to Society

Many consider senior citizens a burden because they need care from their families or relatives. Many North Americans view them as burdensome in terms of maintenance (Little, p.43). Senior citizens exert a health care implication on society. For many years, hand-wringing has been found to abound about the more significant burden older people will place on the publicly-funded system of health care (Little, par. 35). The Commission on the Future Care in Canada report showed that in 2001, the private and public expenditure per every individual in every year for medical care was about three times as much for individuals above the age of 65 years than for the average individual (Little, par. 35). This means that as more people get older and older, the cost of medical care increases dramatically.

Another way they show hindrance in society is by spending their lives living lavishly. Research shows that although baby boomers earned more income than their predecessors, they enjoyed higher living standards even in their working years but did not sufficiently prepare for retirement (Little, par. 37). This presents an economic concern in society.

Aside from the health care system being overburdened, pension plans are also at risk because of the longer life spans and the low interest rates (Little. p.38). Observers have noted that although some pension systems may be run well, they do not cover the cost of living expenses of older people. Without retirement savings, the retirees’ economic situation is threatened.

Ways in which Elders are a Strength to Our Economic Growth

At the same time, other studies have shown that senior citizens bring economic growth to the healthcare industry. For instance, home healthcare and pharmaceutical manufacturing services grow economically because of increased demand for healthcare among senior citizens (Little, 36). Little (p.36) noted that, unlike the previous senior citizens before baby boomers, baby boomers are unwilling to give up their active lives, including leisure activities and work. They, therefore, need medical support to keep living busy lives. These requirements among older people have sparked innovation within the medical industry. The issue of the cost of aging and healthcare now needs to be refocused on end-of-life care options. Lastly, since many may not have retirement savings, Little (p.36) found that many showed interest in working part-time to cover their cost of living, thus building on economic activities.


Little, William. Introduction to Sociology- 1st Canadian Edition. OpenStax College, 2012.

OpenStax (2017). Introduction to Sociology 2e. Houston, Texas: Rice University.


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Graying of the United States

Graying of the United States

This chapter teaches about Aging in Society, a part of life courses (Structural-Functional Perspective in Sociology). Go to Chapter 12, Page 277 in your book, and define what the term “The Graying of the United States” means.
After you define this term, read the section below and give some facts and statistics about older people in our society and the Baby Boomers. You can also Google some facts about more senior people in our community and share them with the class. In what ways are older people a hindrance to society, and in what ways are they a strength to our economic growth?

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