The United Nations World Assembly on Aging has made advancing health and well-being into old age a worldwide call for action. And this text at hand shows us what researchers worldwide are doing to answer that call. Here, three of America’s most esteemed experts on aging lead a global team of contributors – each an expert in his or her country – to show us what the top challenges of each nation are, and what top research is being done there to meet those. While we cannot predict with absolute certainty all of the issues that will arise over the next 20 years, we can anticipate some and we must start now to prepare for these challenges, an expert from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services warned at a recent UN World Assembly on Aging. Needed response to the global population shift is not just the responsibility of governments, but will be a product of wise, long-term decisions made by individuals and societies, she explained.
In most nations globally, populations are graying and the number of people aged 65 and older is vastly increasing, creating a larger segment of senior citizens than the world has ever before seen. Across human history, the elderly accounted for no more than 3 percent of the world population. By the year 2030, the elderly are expected to make up about 25 percent of the world population. And while longevity is of course seen as a great success, longer lifespan for such masses also creates dilemmas. For example, the incidence of dementia has already increased significantly with an 11-fold increase in people aged 65 and older in the US since the turn of the century, and a similar increase in aged people in Scotland has researchers there scrambling to find treatments for what they expect will be a 75 percent increase in dementia over the next 25 years. Chronic diseases that come with aging are already taxing health care systems in the US and around the world to Japan, with most experts aware their current health systems would be overrun and lack enough staff and facilities to handle the needs of an elderly population multiplying largely in the coming two decades. Increases in psychological issues such as dealing with the depression often striking aged people are impending, too, as are social issues such as how families, and public policies, will deal with the changing shape of the family.
Erdman Palmore is professor emeritus of medical sociology and gerontology at Duke University and Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC. He is a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and the American Sociological Association Section on Aging. Palmore served on the boards for the Journal of Gerontology, The Gerontologist and the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. He is also Editor of the Center Report, a newsletter of the Duke University Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development. Palmore has served as principal investigator for research funded by the National Institute on Aging, the National Institutes of Mental Health, and the Federal Department of Health and Human Services.
Frank Whittington, PhD, is professor of gerontology and associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Health and Human Services at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. He previously was director of the Gerontology Institute and professor of sociology at Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA. Dr. Whittington received his PhD from Duke University and he is a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and former president of the Southern Gerontological Society. He currently serves as book review editor of The Gerontologist. His publications include nine books and over fifty articles and chapters on long-term care and health behavior of older people. Dr. Whittington’s recent research, funded by the National Institute on Aging, sought to identify supports and barriers for independence, autonomy, and quality of life of residents of assisted living facilities. His most recent book, coauthored with Mary Ball and four other colleagues at the Georgia State Gerontology Institute, is entitled Communities of Care: Assisted Living for African American Elders.
Suzanne Kunkel is director of the Scripps Gerontology Center and professor of sociology at Miami University, Oxford, OH, where she has been involved in several international initiatives, including a project funded by the U.S. Department of Education to establish an international exchange program for the study of social and health policy in aging nations. She has served as president of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, chaired the International Task Force for that organization, and served on editorial boards for the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences and the Journal of Applied Gerontology.
Reviews"Contributors in relevant medical specialties, in various social sciences, and in the helping professions present 46 country profiles of the demography and socio-economic characteristics of aging populations, educational and training programs in gerontology and geriatrics, and social policy issues designed to deal with identified challenges of older adults. In addition, chapters consider the regions of Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and Latin America and international non-governmental organizations related to aging."—Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 2010
"This is an excellent resource for institutions with research programs or graduate/undergraduate students interested in gerontology, as well as faculty and professionals in the fields of adult care and geriatrics. . . . Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above."—Choice, April 1, 2010