Aging issues only beginning

A former assistant secretary for President Bill Clinton spoke on the increase of minority baby boomers in the US and its effect on younger generations Wednesday night.

Fernando Torres-Gil, an assistant secretary for aging in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the Clinton administration, spoke to a crowd of about 60 people at the University Hilton.

“Due to longevity, there will be more older people,” Torres-Gil said regarding future age projections. “There will be many more persons over 50 and a large number under the age of 20. The middle working population will have more persons to support.”

Torres-Gil defined this as a “new America” that will “come to fruition in 2050.”

Aside from speaking about the general American population, Torres-Gil pointed out that minority groups with larger birth rates, especially Hispanics, will become the majority of the future aging population.

“By 2050, Latinos will be 30 percent of the whole US population,” Torres-Gil said. “The white, non-Hispanic population will have peaked in 2010.”

Due to the future shift in both age and ethnic demographics, Torres-Gil questioned the sustainability of the older population.

“It’s really about who pays, and who receives taxes and the benefits,” Torres-Gil said.

“In this upcoming session of Congress, there will be debate on can we afford them (baby boomers) or will they increase the national deficit.”

For one UH alumna, this is one of the most important aspects that the elderly should understand.

“Hopefully the baby boomers will be able to educate themselves and be aware of the different political aspects of life,” Jai Jones, who received a master’s in family and children in social work in 1999, said.

The monetary aspect will cause a backlash to the older population, Torres-Gil said.

“The baby boomers will confront future shock just as they enter their old age,” Torres–Gil said. “They will face adversity in their old age (from future generations).”

While Torres-Gil may have painted a bleak picture, there are those who foresee the aging population in a positive light.

Second-year College of Social Work graduate student Sara White is concentrating on clinical gerontology, which is the study of the process of aging on a physiological, social and psychological level.

“The (elderly) population is exponentially growing, and it’s increasing so drastically. That’s where the jobs are going to be and those are the people that need the most assistance,” White said.

“To find long-term care solutions for elder adults is nearly impossible,” White continued, “but we (college students) can all use our voices to allocate funds for program development to satisfy the needs for the aging population.”

According to a UH news release, Torres-Gil is the associate director of the University of California’s Los Angeles Center on Aging, and was appointed vice chairman on the National Council on Disability by President Barack Obama.

He earned a master’s and his doctorate in social policy, planning and research from the Heller Graduate School in Public Policy at Brandeis University in 1976.

The program was co-sponsored by the Houston chapter of the National Hispanic Council on Aging.

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