Will you still need me,
Will you still feed me,
When I’m 64?*
Four decades ago the Beatles captured the questions of the baby boomers in their youthful look into the future. If the song were being written today, 74 or 84 might replace 64, but the questions would reflect the same uneasiness about aging. There is great uncertainty about how societies that are top-heavy with older citizens will function. Will people want to work past the traditional retirement age? Will employers hire them? Will people remain healthy and mentally sharp or suffer from increasing infirmities? Will younger people need to provide care for older people, or will older people be self-sufficient and socially engaged?
The answers to these questions have major implications for society because of the sheer numbers of the boomer generation and the changing distribution of the U.S. population by age and gender. In 1970, the age distribution of the population, shown in a population pyramid in Figure 1-1, had the broad base and small top typical of a rather young population, but with a bulge near the bottom for the baby boomers and, above that, an indentation for the older “birth dearth” of the Great Depression. By 2000, the age distribution had narrowed at the base, reflecting the larger number of those in midlife and the smaller number of children and young adults; see Figure 1-2. By 2030, the age distribution of the popula-