Monday, December 12, 2005

By Steve Dahlberg, Editor, ageing as exile?

U.S. Comptroller General Presents 'Just the Facts' - Will They Motivate Necessary Changes?
[12 December 2005 - Opening Plenary - White House Conference on Aging - Washington, D.C.] No matter how you cut it, you can't get around the numbers about the aging population. There are 77 million baby boomers. One will hit 60 every 7.7 seconds beginning January 1, 2006.

As comptroller general of the United States, David M. Walker raises questions about spending and planning for the U.S. government. These days, a good deal of his attention is on Social Security, Medicare and health care. He described the "demographic tidal wave" or tsunami of the 77 million baby boomers to be followed by baby bust. Unfortunately, he said, this tsunami "will never recede and we are not prepared." We went on to describe the broken private pension system, the Medicare funding problem that is seven to eight times larger than the Social Security funding problem, and the possibility that health care issues could bankrupt America.

He began to outline several directions that could help address these challenges, including that the aging population should be encouraged to work longer. Walker said that this could help the economy, help the budget challenges and help individuals themselves. He described "seasoned citizens" as an underused resource in the U.S. knowledge economy and said that the barriers that prevent people from working longer need to be addressed.

He concluded with three key ingredients that can help address these budgeting, spending and tax challenges: courage, integrity and innovation to see new ways of addressing these problems.

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