The Family: A Place in the Sun

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(See Cover) He was not what anybody would call an old man. His hair was grey, but it was far from white; his face was lined but not wrinkled. He looked down at his strong, freckled hands:

"I don't know what to do with myself these days." he said. "I'm supposed to be old—I was 65 last fall—but God knows I don't feel old. The company is right about the retirement age, I suppose; it has to make places for younger men. But what happens to us?"

He was sitting on the porch of his son's house in Fair Haven. N.J., watching his granddaughter perambulate her favorite doll in the summer sunshine, but he might have been anywhere in the U.S. His cry and his question are being heard more often and more urgently everywhere—in Southern drawl and Northern twang, in city and suburb, cold-water flat and executive suite.

Time & Money. The man on the porch is a member of the U.S.'s fastest-growing minority—the so-called aged. Because of modern medicine. U.S. citizens are living longer. In the first half of the 20th century, life expectancy at birth increased 17.6 years for men and 20.3 years for women. Today 17.4 million U.S. citizens are 65 or over. Between 1950 and 1960, the over-65 population increased about twice as fast as the total population. Between 1920 and 1960, the number of people 75 or more increased by 279%, and the number 85 and older increased by a phenomenal 920%. Estimates are that by the year 2000 the number of U.S. citizens past the normal retirement age of 65 will have doubled, and they will make up 10% of the population—comprising in all a body of people larger than the present population of Spain, or more than triple that of Australia.

At 65, the man on the porch can expect 12.7 more years of life. He has money, or at least a modest income. The 17 million Americans over 65 have an aggregate annual income of $32 billion—nearly $9 billion from social security; $5.3 billion from private sources such as interest, dividends, rents, etc.; $11 billion from retainers or consultation fees, odd jobs and other employment; the rest from annuities, life insurance, public aid, company and Government pensions. And their total income will be increasing as the oldest generations (who tended by and large to depend on relations for support) die out, and as the effect of the huge expansion in company retirement plans makes itself felt. Today there are some 22 million employees covered by private pensions, and an estimated 1,000,000 are added yearly. The total sum paid out on pension plans in 1935 was only $100 million; last year it was $1.8 billion.

Too Old to Work. But what does the man on the porch do with his money and his time, finding himself, as Walter Reuther once put it, "too old to work and too young to die"?

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