Opportunities and Protections Aging Related Public Policy Initiatives

Protective Services for the Elderly

Aging and the elderly have become an increasing concern, especially in the Western world today. The fact is that the population is aging and will most likely continue to do so as a result of better medical care, more individual concern with aging in a healthy way, and avoiding unhealthy lifestyles and choices. The EPA (2012), for example, cites the U.S. Census of 2011 in its estimate that there were 41.4 million persons aged 65 or older in the country. This constitutes 13% of the population. By 2030, this number is likely to increase to more 72 million, which will constitute 20% of the total population. According to the EPA, the number of people aged 85 and over is the fastest growing age group in the United States. The fact is also that, despite the better and longer lives we enjoy today, aging tends to generally end in frailty and vulnerability as we come closer to the end of our lives. For this reason, and because the number of people that become older is increasing so rapidly, professionals should concern themselves specifically with services that target older people, particularly when it comes to providing protective and assisting services. By means of actions and policies that do not only target older people, but also use them as a resource, services and policies for older people can be enhanced and made more effective.

The National Council on Aging (2012) notes that many vulnerable older people often feel that they have not voice in terms of policy or the services delivered to them. By creating a political platform on the basis of which the concerns of these people can be made heard is one of the main objectives of the Council. Indeed, public policy for seniors is being improved by the work of this Council and others like it. Vulnerable older people are especially in need of such services, since they are often unable to voice their own concerns, speak for themselves, or are even aware that they can improve their own lives by doing so. In this way, the Council's work has a dual function, where the voices of older people are given extra power, and where they are made aware that such an option is available to them. Important issues such as elder abuse, food benefits, and political representation are examples of concerns brought to the attention of policymakers in Washington. Providing this type of political to the elderly population is vital in order to ensure that the democracy and caring that the United States prides itself on can continue for all age groups.

Vulnerability does not only, however, extend only to physical or mental frailty. Many retired older people also face economic hardship. This was particularly the case early in the 20th century, when few services existed to ensure income security for retired and aging people. Many Americans today rely on welfare and pension programs that were instated either by their employers or by the state. One such program is the Old-Age Benefit Program established by the SSA. According to Niles-Yokum and Wagner (2011, p. 52), the Supplementary Security Income (SSI) program was the descendant of the SSA program to remove the stigma from relying on welfare programs for one's livelihood. The program meant that older and retired people could make use of Social Security as a pension for which they paid, it was assumed that there would be much less stigma attached to this than a full welfare program. In other words, it brought with it the concept of entitlement, or indeed a right.

The important point here is that the rights and well-being of older Americans should be protected, since they are entitled to these as part their rights as human beings. This is the cornerstone of American society. One way to ensure this is via legislation. The Older American Act, for example, is created to ensure that the rights and well-being of older Americans are both part of political awareness and its attention (Niles-Yokum and Wagner, 2011, p. 165). The authors also note that the 1992 modification was targeted to m ore specifically focus on programs and services to prevent elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. This, however, is not the only aim of this particular piece of legislation.

According to Eustis (2010),…