The Spiral of Invisibility: The Challenge of Old Age as a Factor of Diversity
People are living longer. Advances in medical technology, health care and disease prevention, exercise and diet, have extended the average life span of humans. According to U.S. Census Bureau (2007), the average life expectancy of a male is 75 years and a female is 81 years. By 2050, on average, males are expected to live to 86 years and females to 92 years. Also, an estimated 12 percent (37 million) people in the United States are currently over 65. By 2030, it is expected that 20 percent (71.5 million) people will be 65 or older. In health, appearance, attitude, manner and expectation, it is now popularly believed that “40 is the new 50, 50 is the new 60, and 60 is the new 70.” Some even say that 60 is the new 40. In other words, people feel better and act younger than their actual age might suggest. Middle age is being redefined and projections suggest that before long, many people will live beyond 100 years. There are many issues that come with an aging population, including a declining workforce, support for Social Security, Medicare and private pension funds. How will society support so many older and retired people? These and other problems and the corresponding shift in demographics make this aging group difficult to ignore. But despite the projected increase in demand on resources, popular culture increasingly relegates older people to a status of invisibility. In fact the older people are, the more they seem to be ignored. Where are the older people and why doesn’t society recognize their presence more in popular culture? This presentation will consider old age as a factory of diversity. It will discuss the apparent absence of older people in media and consider the spiral invisibility many older people may face in their declining years.
Keywords: Age, Demographics
Dr. Don A. Grady
Associate Professor, School of Communications, Elon University