Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Growing Old in America" Report by Pew

On July 7, 2009, the SmartTalk radio discussion program, offered by Public Broadcasting System affiliate WITF-FM (Harrisburg, PA), presented the topic "The New Generation Gap" with guest Kim Parker, a Senior Researcher at Pew Social & Demographic Trends, of the Pew Research Center.

The generation gap. It sounds like a relic of the 1960s when young Americans rebelled against the traditions and lifestyles of their parents and anyone older than 30.

Since then, much has changed. Today, children are closer to and more open with their parents. But what has emerged recently though is a divide in attitudes, especially toward social issues, between the generations.

A recent study by the Pew Research Center finds a new generation gap when it comes to issues like gay marriage. What are the issues younger and older people differ on the most? * * *
The basis for the program was a report issued June 29, 2009, by the Pew Research Center, entitled "Growing Old in America: Expectations vs. Reality" regarding its research conducted between February 23 and March 23, 2009, through focus groups convened in Baltimore, Maryland.

This is the "executive summary":

Getting old isn't nearly as bad as people think it will be. Nor is it quite as good.

On aspects of everyday life ranging from mental acuity to physical dexterity to sexual activity to financial security, a new Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends survey on aging among a nationally representative sample of 2,969 adults finds a sizable gap between the expectations that young and middle-aged adults have about old age and the actual experiences reported by older Americans themselves. * * *
AARP noted the study in its posting of an Associated Press article entitled "Study: Generation gap in US largest since 1960s" by Hope Yen (06/29/09). The article contrasted views of younger versus older people, as revealed in the Report, on such key beliefs as morality, religion, and politics:

Almost eight in 10 people believe there is a major difference in the point of view of younger people and older people today, according to the independent public opinion research group. That is the highest spread since 1969, when about 74 percent reported major differences in an era of generational conflicts over the Vietnam War and civil and women's rights. In contrast, just 60 percent in 1979 saw a generation gap.

Asked to identify where older and younger people differ most, 47 percent said social values and morality. People age 18 to 29 were more likely to report disagreements over lifestyle, views on family, relationships and dating, while older people cited differences in a sense of entitlement. Those in the middle-age groups also often pointed to a difference in manners.

Religion is a far bigger part of the lives of older adults. About two-thirds of people 65 and older said religion is very important to them, compared with just over half of those 30 to 49 and 44 percent of people 18 to 29. * * *
As to the characteristics of the newest "generation gap," it was noted by Paul Taylor, Director of the Pew Social and Demographic Trends Project, that "[t]oday, it's more of a general outlook, a different point of view, a general set of moral values."

For prior surveys and reports by the Pew organization on the topics of demographics and population aging, see: "Reports on Generations."

The guest on the recent
SmartTalk program, Senior Researcher Kim Parker, led the full Social & Demographic Trends staff in preparing the survey questionnaire and then in analyzing the findings. She also wrote Sections I, II and III of the Report. So she was a knowledgeable guest -- and a good speaker, too.

Wisconsin Public Radio had featured Kim Parker in an earlier discussion program about the same topic, broadcast on July 2, 2009; but to listen now, you must be a member.

Graciously, WITF-FM made its thought-provoking, one-hour, July 7th audio broadcast available free for the clicking on its website, here.

"There was no respect for youth when I was young,
and now that I am old, there is no respect for age --
I missed it coming and going."

~J.B. Priestly
English novelist, playwright and broadcaster (1894-1984)

per QuoteGarden)