The older adult population cannot be ignored.
In the United States, individuals are living longer which means that an even larger subsection of the population will be categorized as older adults each year. According to the United Nations, life expectancy has increased by 6 years for men and 4 years for women between the years of 1980 and 2010 in the United States. The trend is expected to continue each decade in the projections. This coupled with the high birth rates during the baby boomer era has led to an incredible increase in the number of older adults in our society. The United States Census Bureau states that there were 40 million older adults in 2010 as compared to just 12 million in 1950. They estimate that there will approximately 73 million older adults by the time we reach 2030. “Never before have in history have so many people achieved this age with so much wealth, power and health,” said Paul Irving, chairman of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging.
Despite the diversity within this population, media publications and advertising often show older adults in one narrow narrative. As Paul Irving said in his book, “The one size fits all mentality won’t endure…There is a growing diversity around approach to aging.” Yet in television shows, media articles, and advertisements, older adults are still shown fitting into a constrained stereotype of being sweet, out-of-touch, and inactive. In a study conducted at Princeton University, researchers tested the hypothesis that older adults were stereotyped to be warm, but incompetent. Undergraduate students in the study consistently reaffirmed the stereotype. Stereotypes such as these can begin to affect self-perceptions.
Therefore, these three stories represent an effort to combat the dominant, inaccurate narratives in the media. They hope to serve as broadening younger adult’s perception of what it means to be an older adult and also for other older adults to see a better representation of themselves. Below are three stories selected to examine different aspects of life that change now that we live longer. Nortin and Carol Hadler have been married almost 51 years and represent the increasing amount of time people stay together with longer life expectancies. Sheila Evans shows what occupation looks like for the ten, fifteen, or twenty years after retirement. And finally Dazzie Lane discusses health and community in today’s society.
Nortin and Carol Hadler have been married almost 51 years. From Boston to Chapel Hill, they have navigated the highs and lows of marriage together. Watch their story of making compromises and finding joy in each other.
Sheila Evans was a home health nurse for over 28 years before she retired to take care of her husband. Following his passing, Ms. Evans has worked as a volunteer to help others navigate end of life care and aging in place. Listen to her story of finding a career after retirement.
Dazzie Lane has lived with her husband, Walter, in Carrboro for almost fifty-seven years. As she nears 80 years old, Ms. Lane has had to deal with many of the health issues that older adults face today. Listen as she tells her health narrative and what she is doing to help others.