Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The aging process - thoughts, questions and issues

A few days ago I was asked by a colleague to prepare notes for a briefing he was giving on “Key Issues for the Future of Asia with Regard to Aging.” Though - obviously - I am aging myself, I had never viewed aging as a subject of study. The project evoked a set of “thoughts, questions and issues” that I thought might be of interest.

  1. Aging issues need to be framed in the context of models that take into account population dynamics within a broad context – these suggest the range of options that are possible
  2. Cultural issues and cultural sensitivities are more relevant in this area than many others where planning is undertaken. Lee Kuan Yew’s attempts to shape the marriage decisions of Singaporeans, when Prime Minister, provide one illustration.
  3. Singapore becomes an important case study because the issues of reaching and sustaining an equilibrium population have surfaced earlier – also Singapore’s population is more accepting of planning initiatives and the skills available for implementing planning are greater. It is both “the canary in the coal mine” and a test bed for solutions in this as well as many other areas.
  4. Should lengthening life – as opposed to increasing the quality of life be a priority if tradeoffs are to be made. Is there an optimal length of life as there might be an optimal age structure? How should this be determined?
  5. When dealing with aging issues, how should the responsibilities of the individual, the nuclear family, the extended family and the state be balanced?
  6. How do marriage and child-rearing decisions enter into the age structure picture? Are there interventions that can alter these decisions?
  7. What does gerontology have to say about these issues? Should this be a research area? (The NUS Center for Gerontology Research?)
  8. How can programs to address aging bring generations together rather than segregating them? As a dorm resident I am particularly sensitive to the importance and value of this? Young people can benefit from the wisdom and experience that compassionate, elders who are willing to listen provide. The elderly can benefit from the energy, idealism and creativity of the young.
  9. Since changing attitudes both to marriage and child-raising, as well as aging are important, what role should and understanding of culture and spirituality play? These considerations can be included in System Dynamics Models?
  10. Members of aging population cohorts should be included in the discussion – has anyone asked Minister Mentor (Lee Kuan Yew) for his thoughts on this topic; including the discussion of research and research topics?


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