cover image The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America

The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America

Ai-Jen Poo, with Ariane Conrad. New Press (Perseus, dist.), $25.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-62097-038-6

Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and recent winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, offers a critical examination of the current and near-future situation of the elderly and home care workers in the U.S., along with hopeful suggestions for improvement. In the first portion of this work, Poo combines statistics with the stories of individuals to give a multifaceted picture of the difficulties facing older Americans, their families, and their caregivers. With the population of Americans over the age of 85 now representing the country’s most rapidly growing demographic, she predicts that the demand for care workers and the challenges to our current “care labyrinth” will only increase. The book goes on to indict the U.S. medical system and government assistance programs for emphasizing the “delay of death, rather than the quality of life.” Meanwhile, elders’ family members, generally too busy to provide adequate care themselves, relegate the task to in-home care workers, many of them undocumented immigrants, who receive poor wages and virtually no benefits. For possible solutions, Poo looks abroad to programs like the “time dollar” currency credit of Japan, as well as to domestic programs like Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities. Overall, she makes a strong argument for a cultural and governmental shift toward valuing older citizens and providing them with opportunities for rich, full lives. (Feb.)