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April 29, 2005

Certainly, the numbers heading for Golden Pond are staggering. Today, about 1 in 8 Americans is 65 years or older, compared with 1 in 25 at the turn of the century. By 2030, 1 in 5 Americans will be elderly. And senior citizens are around for a lot longer. Life expectancy at birth was 47 years in 1900; in 1993, it reached 76 years. For those reaching age 65, average life expectancy for men is projected to rise from a current 81 years to 85 in 2040; for women, it’s 85 and 88. The fastest-growing segment of the population is the so-called oldest old–those 85 years or more.

Workplace changes are part of the demographic transformation, too. People will be working longer, and older people will contribute more to economic growth. Clearly, the information economy will ease the transition to longer working lives. Working with computers in service-sector occupations such as financial services and medical diagnostics is much less demanding physically than manning an auto assembly line or mining for coal. Says Maria C. Robotham, manager of health care and aging studies at the Futures Group Inc., a consulting firm: “We are also finding more interest in second and third careers. A lot of retired people are returning to start a new career.”

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