Social Services for the Elderly Term Paper

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¶ … Elderly

Social services for the elderly are in greater need than they ever have been before as the population is aging greatly. A gradual aging trend, that began in the 1970s with decreased fertility and increased longevity, with a short increase in fertility following the depression and reaching into the 1950's know as the baby boom the population of the U.S. has aged significantly over the years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau the population had a median age of 22.9 in 1900 which changed to between 30.7 and 32 by 2000. The projection of age increase is for between 30.9 and 43.7 by 2050. Yet, the most startling aspect of this change is the growth of the old and very old population groups, which have slowly but steadily increased over the last 100 years from just over 3,000 aged 65+ in 1900 to a projected total of nearly 65,000 by 2050, with a breakdown of 65-74 at around 30,000, 75-84 at around 17,000 and the final 10,000 being those over the age of 85, or what is known as the very old. (Espenshade & Braun, 1983, p. 27-29) "The fastest growing segment of the population is those aged 85 and older." (Wiatrowski, 2001, p. 3)

As these demographics change there is a significant shift in direct needs of the community, especially given the fact that many of those within the old and very old categories have fewer children than they would have if they had lived just fifty years earlier. This therefore means that they have far fewer opportunities for direct family support and will likely, to some degree need additional support from the community at large. The answer for this shift in population has been only woefully answered by the system, as it stands.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Social Services for the Elderly Assignment

Demographic changes noted previously will not only affect the funding of older people's retirement, but will also have an impact on the social environment of future retirees. Low birth rates mean that the family support system of older people in the future will be smaller than in the past. Rising divorce rates will produce a number of unmarried retirees (primarily female). It appears that many old people will be unable to count on the emotional support and services of offspring and spouse, necessitating the expansion of social services to the unmarried and childless. Will sufficient social resources be available to provide such services, and will there be a willingness to use these resources for older people? Indeed, will the political and economic climate permit the maintenance of existing social welfare programs at present levels? (Riley, Hess, & Bond, 1983, p. 91)

These concerns, have been answered by a population that has not demanded additional services for the elderly but has instead been answered by a population of those who believe that limitations or rationing of services s a better answer to changing demographics and increased health care costs for the elderly. (Lamm & Blank, 2005, p. 23) Sadly, it is just within the last few years that this issue has become a serious social problem, as the first of the baby boom generation has begun to age significantly. The limited response of social services, is clearly not enough to answer in the affirmative to the questions asked by Riley, Hess, & Bond, above. The way in which the issue reached the agenda is relatively simple. Economic forecasting challenged the U.S. population to take a look at services, as they exist today and discuss the fact that there will be no way that the working population can support the social needs of the ageing population, in the manner in which it has in the past. (Siems, 2004, p. 18) Another trend that has become increasingly visible in society is the number of single aged individuals without additional retirement savings, being forced by necessity to work, long into their aged years to support themselves, and maintain any semblance of normalcy in their lives. (Purcell, 2000, p. 19) "A Merrill Lynch New Retirement Survey released in February reported that 76% of baby boomers expect to continue working after they retire, often in a new job or career." ("Boomers Slow Down, but," 2005, p. A01) Though some choose to continue to work others simply do so out of necessity. The issue itself, of working past retirement can come down to choice but really becomes a problem when illness of infirmary become issues that require additional social support systems such as home health care, institutional extended care or even expensive hospitalization, instead of other alternatives. (O'Higgins, 1990, p. 182) an additional characteristic of this trend is that not only s the population aging with only limited social services, the population who is receiving the least amount of care, due ostensibly to access are those with the greatest need, single elderly individuals with limited income and limited family or secondary support. (Wenger & Shahtahmasebi, 1990, p. 270) to some degree it can be said that this part of the aging population is simply disappearing, as they have limited or no advocacy to resolve access issues, be it daily meals or rides to a doctor's office, not to mention the meeting of social needs such as companionship. So, even where social services exist access becomes an issue that is troubling to many, but given the current state of social services, this may be a good thing given that if every individual who needed and qualified for services accessed them the system would likely be bankrupt of resources within a few days. (Taeuber, 1993, p. 42) the characteristics of the system, with its tangled web of private and public alternatives, often does not know how to met the needs of the greatest number of people, and could use a serious overhaul, especially regarding redundancy of services, while other areas of need simply fall by the wayside. At least one expert, contends that shortcomings in resources effect the elderly more than any other population, as services specifically designed for the elderly see more waiting lists than other services, and yet clearly many are not even on those lists. (Dart, 2001, p. 9)


The legal situation that would answer the issue has created a system that demands a rather complicated, privatization approach to social services. Though this is simply one example the new Medicare Drug plan, enacted by the federal government in 2005, is the response to a privatization trend that can create havoc for those in need of such services. The plan has a service population of nearly 60 separate service plans provided by almost as many individual providers. What this means to the average user is that each individual must wade through mountains of small print to come up with some semblance of an answer as to what the best plan will be depending on their care needs, sometimes even to the specificity of the medications they take, themselves. Many plans are broken down to various medications, while some commonly prescribed therapeutic drugs are simply not covered at all. (Segelken, 2007, p. 18) the system is a reflection of policy trend that ahs existed for a long time, where the government, especially on the issue of health care chooses to simply say, if others are willing to pay for it why should we? (Lamm & Blank, 2005, p. 23)

Medicare itself, secondary from the new prescription drug plan, known as Medicare D. has traditionally been a difficult subject for change, as the elderly lobby is significant, and when the program or its features go on the chopping block there is a tendency for legislation to get voted out. Yet, it is still without merit in many cases and nearly always requires either significant out of pocket expenses or a pay for benefits additional Medicare supplemental insurance that covers costs that Medicare does not, which can be relatively significant. (Ulrich, 2002, p. 13) This is the system, as I has been almost since its inception.

Medical care is only one of the social services that re needed within the elderly population, though it is a significant one. Other issues such as services providing food, or even safety reviews when there is no family support are often delegated to whatever volunteer community member seems to have the most concern for the individual in need. It is likely that wellness checks among close neighbors occur everyday, under the radar, yet as the social situation in our communities becomes increasingly fragmented and isolated these may wane. There is no official policy that can or will change this situation any time in the near future.

The real changes have only just begun, and the legislation of the Medicare D. drug plan is one of the first steps toward the expansion of social services to the elderly. Arguably this program is lacking, it is in the very least an improvement. One example of the previous step that was taken, was actually responsive to an aging population but actually limited the availability… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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