Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2007

Publication Information

21 Notre Dame J.L. Ethics & Pub. Pol'y 295 (2007)

Abstract

Professor Sarah Harper's assessment of the legal, political,

medical, and economic issues associated with old age in the

United States heralded the theme for this Symposium, "Aging

America." Her analysis turns, as she puts it, on "a fundamental

shift in the demographic structure of society. No longer will it be

the norm to have large numbers of young and small numbers of

old,"1 as it was when I was a boy (age 11 on V.J. Day, 1945).

"Rather, we are entering a world where age groups will be distributed

more or less equally across society-an age-symmetric society."

2 Soon, America will have not three generations interacting

and competing among themselves, butfive. Some people inheriting

from their parents will be in their eighties when they get the

money.3 This symposium is obviously timely and important.

And, I am happy to say, remarkably substantial as well.

Ms. Jennifer Morris's astute assessment of the economic

dimensions of the changes Professor Harper describes demonstrates

that the burden of aging will fall-does fall-on older

women, who live longer than men, have less retirement income,

have lower savings and poorer health insurance than men, and

incur greater medical expense than their younger sisters.4 Professor

Peggie Smith's discussion of the situation of those who

care for the home-bound elderly shows that many of the women

on whom the burden falls are not themselves elderly but are

"workplace casualties" employed at low wages with poor benefits

and crippling conditions as they care at home for aging

America.5

Much of the situation of the elderly and those who care for

them, described in economic terms by many of our contributors,

invites the wisdom of Kin Hubbard, writing as the fictional Hoosier

philosopher Abe Martin, whose column once appeared on

the front page of the Indianapolis Star. He said, "When a feller

says 'It hain't the money, but the principle o'th'thing,' it's the

money."6 The Martin principle explains much of what concerns

Ms. Morris and Professors Harper and Smith, as it seems to me to

explain much of the concern expressed in the valuable articles in

this Symposium by Stephen Moses, Professors Richard Kaplan,

and Professor Lawrence Frolik (much, but perhaps not quite all.)

Included in

Elder Law Commons

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