Getting Ever Older/From Baby Boom to Geezer Glut; The Quest to Beat Aging; Scientific American Presents; by J.R. Brandstrader; 4 Page(s)
Want to put a face on the demographics of aging? Meet Mary Kikukawa Fichter, who's 93. Age has largely silenced this educated mother of seven, but she still manages a smile when her son, Joe, presides over a rousing game of Trivial Pursuit for her and her friends. Mary, who was born in the U.S. in 1906 of Japanese and Irish parents, lives in a nursing home in northern New Jersey. Her roommate is a friend of 40 years, but Mary can no longer remember her name. Joe calls the place "a bus stop for people waiting to die." Remembering his mother's voice from an earlier time, he talks about the inevitability of her passing: "I know she'd welcome it." Whether Mary's age is a result of healthful habits, relative wealth or just plain luck, she shares ancestry with the demographic group with the longest life expectancy in the country-Asian-American women.
Today Mary's age is exceptional, but her present may become the normal future for baby boomers. The millions of people born between 1946 and 1964 now create a bulge in the U.S. population between ages 36 and 54. In another decade the first men and women who hoped they died before they got old (to quote rocker Pete Townshend) will turn 65. From that watershed forward, the number of U.S. elderly will swell from 13 percent of the population to 20 percent by 2030. The baby boom will become a geezer glut.