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The Hidden Age Revolution: Emergent Integration of All Ages

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  • Matilda White Riley

    (Scientist Emerita, Program on Aging and Structural Change (PASC), National Institute on Aging (NIA), National Institutes of Health)

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    Abstract

    Over the past 30 years my colleagues and I have been focusing on conceptual and empirical work (the aging and society paradigm) that does not create policies, but can inform them. The most immediate phase of this long cumulative history is leading us now to hidden changes in people's lives and social institutions that herald a new phenomenon world-wide--a phenomenon that may have momentous implications for the policies of the future. We call it "age integration" because it *integrates* older people with others of every age. When I come to the end of my lecture, I hope you will see the potential for age integration to transform the basis for policy in the 21st century. But before considering policy, I want to share with you my excitement about the age integration that would greatly affect it. Of course, we already know that lives have changed; they have become longer and healthier. But what many of us do not yet recognize is that two revolutionary changes, though still hidden, are beginning to emerge: (1) human lives are subtly extending so far that they create a new *age continuum*; (2) a silent metamorphosis in social structures is opening unexpected *opportunities for people of every age*. These hidden changes, and the pressures generated by the tensions between them, portend a virtual breakdown of the age barriers that once segregated the "three boxes"; retirement and leisure for the old, work and family for the middle aged, and education for the young. With the barriers removed, older people could participate together with younger people in work, life-long education, community, religion, and many other structures--that is, they could become "age integrated."

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University in its series Center for Policy Research Policy Briefs with number 12.

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    Length: 25 pages
    Date of creation: May 1998
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    Handle: RePEc:max:cprpbr:12

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    1. James P. Smith, 1997. "The Changing Economic Circumstances of the Elderly: Income, Wealth, and Social Security," Center for Policy Research Policy Briefs 8, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
    2. Richard V. Burkhauser & Joseph F. Quinn, 1997. "Pro-Work Policy Proposals for Older Americans in the 21st Century," Center for Policy Research Policy Briefs 9, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
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