The Perplexities of Age and Power
51 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2017 Last revised: 7 Mar 2020
Date Written: 2018
The elderly population in the United States is growing dramatically and is expected to reach over seventy-two million, or twenty percent of the citizenry, by 2030. But serious legislative and regulatory gaps leave the surging population of older adults with many unmet needs. Many Americans are aware of the Social Security and Medicare funds’ financial woes. This Article emphasizes that these challenges are only the tip of the iceberg. In addition, the elderly face under-funded Older Americans Act programs, unaffordable long-term care, inadequate driving regulations that fail to identify and protect at-risk drivers, and a significant shortage of geriatricians, among other problems.
Neglect of the aging population in the legal and policy arenas makes little sense. Public choice theory, which teaches that all political actors act in their own self-interest, would suggest that support for the elderly should be a high priority because all individuals face the prospect of aging and caring for elderly loved ones. Relying in part on this theory, the Article develops new insights as to why seniors fail to use their potential political strength to advocate forcefully for beneficial policy changes and why aging issues do not resonate with policymakers, voters, and the media. The Article argues that it is human nature to avoid contemplating one’s future decline, and thus we choose to ignore the challenges that lie ahead. Elected officials, in turn, respond to voters’ priorities and conclude that focusing on eldercare matters will not win them votes or yield political pay-offs. The media, for their part, prefer sensational stories to those that engage in in-depth exploration of social problems’ causes and solutions.
At its core, the Article is a call to action, as highlighted in its recommendations section. Aging and caregiving for elderly loved ones are not special-interest matters but matters that will affect all of us. Preparing for the swelling older population is not only in everyone’s best interest, but is also a regulatory, social, and political necessity.
Keywords: public choice theory, Older Americans Act, media, long-term care insurance, long-term care, lobbying, geriatric care, elder law, driving regulation, caregiving, aging.
JEL Classification: K36
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation