The American society of today strongly values and caters to Generation X with advertising, product development and societal norms perpetuating the idea and values of a youthful society; however, a revolution may be around the corner. Just as the baby boomers “caused a social revolution in the late ‘60s” (Barr, 1999, par. 2), they may cause a millennium social revolution that embraces aging and generates changes in geriatric services.
Baby boomers account for a significant number of our population. During the post World War II era, sociologists noted a significant rise in “number and rate of births to women aged 15-44” (Morgan, 1998, p. 10) from 1946 until 1964. Baby boomers are now reaching middle age, and will over the next few decades reach old age causing a demographic shift with the potential to influence and change the societal norms and beliefs about the aging and the elderly. The United States population aged 65 and over was 33.2 million in 1994 with forecasts from the Census Bureau that this demographic group will more than double to 80 million elderly in 2050 (Economics and Statistics Administration, 1995).
Medical advances, a decline in birth rates, increased wealth and improved public awareness of wellness and prevention have also affected the increased number of elderly, according to Peter G. Peterson (1999) in the book Gray Dawn: How the Coming Age Wave will Transform America– and the World. These factors have contributed to an aging society by increasing the average life expectancy in the United States “by twenty-eight years since the year 1900” (Butler, Lewis, and Sunderland, 1998, p. 3).
The impact of the baby boom demographic group has the potential to revolutionize not only our culture, but the structure of the services provided by healthcare professionals. As the baby-boomers reach their mid 50s and 60s, meeting their needs may tax already overburdened healthcare systems, counselors, gerontologists, and service providers. Healthcare professionals and the institutions educating those professionals will need to reevaluate current services and programs to meet the demands of an elderly society.
Educational programs of service providers, including counseling, should train the doctors, counselors, social workers of tomorrow to deal with the special needs of elderly clients. In the article Competencies, Credentialing, and Standards for Gerontological Counselors: Implications for Counselor Education, Myers (1992) suggested that with such a shift in demographics, it is conceivable that “all counselors, regardless of work setting, will encounter older persons or families of older persons among their clientele” (par. 2). Proper training by educational institutions will greatly effect and determine the quality of care the elderly will receive.
Statement of the Problem
The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of an aging society on counselors and service...