ABOUT THE ARTICLE
The elderly population in the United States is growing dramatically and is expected to reach over seventy-two million, or 20% 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, this 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, or the media. This 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 deep 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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sharona Hoffman is the Edgar A. Hahn Professor of Law and Professor of Bioethics, Co- Director of Law-Medicine Center, Case Western Reserve University School of Law; B.A., Wellesley College; J.D., Harvard Law School; LL.M. in Health Law, University of Houston; S.J.D. in health law, Case Western Reserve University School of Law. Author of AGING WITH A PLAN: HOW A LITTLE THOUGHT TODAY CAN VASTLY IMPROVE YOUR TOMORROW (Praeger 2015).
I thank the many audiences who attended my book talks and shared their questions and thoughts with me. I also thank Jaime Bouvier, Andy Podgurski, Andrew Pollis, and Cassandra Robertson for their astute comments on prior drafts and Stephanie Corley, Tracy Li, Alexis Florczak, and Brandon Wojtasik for their skilled research assistance. For more information about the author see sharonahoffman.com.