The global demographic shift is a significant opportunity as long as it is in tandem with a policy and cultural shift, say productive aging experts

China’s population of adults over 65 tops 100 million. This number is steadily growing, putting China at the forefront of a global demographic shift that includes the United States and other developed nations. “While a common tendency is to focus on the burdens an aging population will place on a country’s economic and social welfare, an aging society represents an opportunity, not just a crisis,” says Nancy Morrow-Howell, Ph.D., productive aging expert and professor at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University. “Expanding opportunities for productive engagement, including paid employment, formal volunteering, and mutual aid, may reduce social costs by reducing health care expenses and need for post-retirement income supports. (Video available)

Understanding choices adult children make to care for elderly parents should help policymakers

According to a 2005 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report, nursing homes in the United States in 1999 cost an average of $47,000 per year, with costs rising each year. Choosing a course of care for an elderly family member is both a financial decision and an emotional one. A business and economics professor at Washington University in St. Louis is using game theory to understand these long-term care decisions. More…

U.S. government should help ‘make volunteering a natural part of later life,’ says productive aging expert

With the first wave of baby boomers preparing for retirement, the 2005 White House Conference on Aging to be held this fall in Washington, D.C., will be an important opportunity to assess aging in America and improve the lives of older Americans. “The demographic revolution is upon us, and there is widespread agreement that we need to do something differently regarding older adults,” says Nancy Morrow-Howell, Ph.D., productive aging expert and the Ralph and Muriel Pumphrey Professor of Social Work in the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. “The U.S. government and other service agencies need to expand and create institutions that make volunteering a natural part of later life,” she says.

From drug labels to Web sites, visual designers should keep older population in mind

Photo courtesy of National Eye Institute, National Institutes of HealthVisual perception changes as eyes age.Graphic design can be a matter of life and death. Literally. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, more than 40 percent of Americans aged 65 and over use five or more different medications each week, making unintended drug interactions a major contributor to an estimated annual 180,000 fatal or life-threatening adverse drug reactions. Yet drug labeling is a kind of typographical Wild West, says Ken Botnick, professor of visual communications in the School of Art at Washington University in St. Louis. “Drug companies are required to divulge certain types of information but there are no requirements in terms of how accessible that information is made,” Botnick explains. “Typically, decisions about the way information is organized — the hierarchy of presentation, the size and clarity of type — are simply afterthoughts.” Medical information design is just one of the issues to be explored as part of “Visual Design for an Aging Population,” a national symposium Botnick is organizing in March 2004.