The definition of retirement has become increasingly complex. Freedom from work, autonomy, and the pursuit of new interests are mediated by a sense of loss of value when employment ends, by the resource picture in retirement, and by the likelihood that current and boomer retirees are likely to spend more years in retirement. The viability of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and pensions is also of influence, and stereotypes of carefree years are thwarted by caregiving responsibilities and avoided by those continuing to seek fulfilling roles. Finally the experience of retirement continues to be different for important groups in society.
Philip McCallion and Lisa A. Ferretti
Jeanette C. Takamura
Public policy advances in the field of aging in the United States have lagged compared to the growth of the older adult population. Policy adjustments have been driven by ideological perspectives and have been largely incremental. In recent years, conservative policy makers have sought through various legislative vehicles to eliminate or curb entitlement programs, proposing private sector solutions and touting the importance of an “ownership society” in which individual citizens assume personal responsibility for their economic and health security. The election of a Democratic majority in the U.S. House and the slim margin of votes held by Democrats in the U.S. Senate may mean a shift in aging policy directions that strengthens Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, if the newly elected members are able to maintain their seats over time. The results of the 2008 presidential election will also determine how the social, economic, and other policy concerns will be addressed as the baby boomers join the ranks of older Americans.