Improving Health in an Aging Society

Statistics that show aging of the American population have led health experts to issue dire warnings. Many concerns about this vulnerable population and the strain it may place on social service programs are warranted, but focusing only on the challenges has fed the stereotype that old age has to be a time of disability and dependency. This diverts public attention from the significant contributions older people make after retirement, according to the authors of this chapter. They offer five propositions that can serve as a framework for discussions about aging and can help advocates, foundations, government agencies and older consumers develop policies and programs that will promote the health and well-being of older adults. For each proposition, the authors present the research supporting it and discuss the relevance of various Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-supported programs. Using this format, they are able to review the successes and failures of a broad range of initiatives and suggest future paths that the Foundation might take. The propositions presented in this chapter can serve as guideposts for transforming how aging is viewed, for supporting the active participation and contributions of older adults in society, and for creating services that support and empower frail older adults and their families.