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Age Integration and Age Segregation - Prospects For The Future

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As Matilda White Riley argues, age integration is already under way in U.S. society at the dawn of the third millennium. Many retirement communities have sprung up near or on university campuses, with the express purpose of bringing people from different age groups together. Numerous community-based and national programs attempt to bring older people and children together (see Newman et al.). Most such programs are aimed at using the wisdom and experience of older people to benefit the young. This can be especially advantageous in poor communities where the parents may be unable to give their children the attention, teaching, and emotional support that they need. But there are benefits to the older people, too, as discussed earlier.

The early retirement trend had abated as of the mid-1990s (Quinn). Improved health among older people and the tremendous hole that will be left as the baby boom cohort enters retirement age suggest this trend will continue for the first few decades of the twenty-first century at least. Cohort improvements in health and longevity may lead to a rethinking of age categories—with people in their seventies being considered middle-aged rather than "old," for example. People's expectations of themselves and those of potential employers may change accordingly.

However, it is impossible to predict what will happen in the future on the basis of past or current trends. The trend toward increased longevity could be slowed by the cumulative effects of increased pollution or new and more resistant diseases. Widespread economic and technological changes could fundamentally alter the way societies organize work. If age integration becomes much more widespread, it is possible that it will fuel conflict between age groups. For these reasons, greater age integration cannot be prescribed as a sure antidote to future social ills. Still, as age barriers are lifted and the benefits are realized, it is unlikely that society would return to age discrimination. At the turn of the third millennium, age integration offers considerable promise.

KARYN LOSCOCCO

BIBLIOGRAPHY

BENGSTON, V. L., and ACHENBAUM, W. A., eds. The Changing Contract Across Generations. New York: Aldine DeGruyter, 1993.

FONER, A. "Age Integration or Age Conflict as Society Ages?" The Gerontologist 40 (2000): 272–275.

HENRETTA, J. C. "Recent Trends in Retirement." Reviews in Clinical Gerontology 4 (1994): 71–81.

KOHLI, M. "The World We Forgot: A Historical Review of the Life Course." In Later Life: The Social Psychology of Ageing. Edited by V. W. Marshall. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1986. Pp. 271–303.

KUTTNER, R. Everything for Sale: The Virtues and Limits of Markets. New York: Alfred A. Knopf,1997.

LOSCOCCO, K. A. "Age Integration as a Solution to Work-Family Conflict." The Gerontologist 40 (2000): 292–299.

NEWMAN, S.; WARD, C. R.; SMITH, J. O. W.; and MCCREA, J. O. Intergenerational Programs: Past, Present and Future. London: Taylor and Francis, 1997.

QUINN, J. F. "Retirement Trends and Patterns in the 1990s: The End of an Era?" Public Policy and Aging Report 8 (1997): 10–15.

RILEY, M. W. "Aging and Society: Past, Present and Future" The Gerontologist 34 (1994): 436–446.

RILEY, M. W.; KAHN, R. L.; and FONER, A., eds. Age and Structural Lag: Society's Failure to Provide Meaningful Opportunities in Work, Family and Leisure. New York: Wiley, 1994.

RILEY, M. W., and RILEY, J. W. "Age Integration and the Lives of Older People." The Gerontologist 34 (1994): 110–115.

RILEY, M. W., and RILEY, J. W. "Age Integration: Conceptual and Historical Background." The Gerontologist 40 (2000): 266–270.

THUROW, L. C. "The Birth of a Revolutionary Class." New York Times Magazine, 19 May 1996, pp. 46–47.

UHLENBERG, P. "The Burden of Aging: A Theoretical Framework for Understanding the Shifting Balance of Caregiving and Care Receiving as Cohorts Age." The Gerontologist 36 (1996): 761–767.

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