care. Factors that postpone morbidity may function differently in these groups, making them especially important to study.
Research should be undertaken to study the manner in which societal structures and societal changes affect aging Just as individuals change, so too do social structures. Societal old age today shows neither what old age was like in the past nor what it will be like in the future. It is crucial to determine how stability and change in social structures such as the family and work place affect the performance, productivity, health, and quality of life of older adults. Retirement from work or major changes in family structure or in family roles such as the increased entry of women into the workforce provide an opportunity to study how social change affects the experience of aging and health and the well-being of older persons. Research should examine the implication of these changes for social support and caregiving.
Research is needed as well to specify what changes in social structure could improve productivity in older people. Changes in mandatory retirement laws urgently call for more understanding of productivity and psychological processes in older workers. Finally, a life-course perspective should be adopted that views younger adults as the older adults of the future. If children and younger adults who are underemployed, undereducated, and underinsured can be identified and helped, this may improve the well-being of the older population of the future.
Studies derived from the priority research areas identified above may involve large-scale, longitudinal investigations. At the same time, consideration should be given to exploring the use of small-sample studies to enhance our knowledge on key aspects of the aging process.
Opportunities for social research include the following:
study of the characteristics of employment, work places, and older individuals associated with continued productive activity in lifelong jobs or in new careers;
study of how older people are affected (expected and actual performance) by changing technology, and how firms use training and job respecification to make technological changes as age neutral as possible; and
development of a quality of life index to identify contributing