Ageing America

By 2050, an estimated 25 million people in the US will be over the age of 85, and expecting to live to a 100 at least. Will the US embrace these seniors as a source of wisdom or as a burden ? I guess it depends on their wealth….

… Medical advances in the area of genetics will ensure that they will be healthier, and expecting a more active lifestyle. Advances in plastic surgery certainly will ensure that none of them look their age. On the other hand the cult of youth worship will ensure that the better jobs go to younger and younger people..
And as the US loses it’s manufacturing and it’s technical base to the rest of the world, there will be less and less jobs for the younger people, and the US will experience for the first time significant emigration rather than immigration. Of the best and the youngest. There will be fewer and fewer effective young working people paying taxes to support the enormous medical and other support costs of the older population. Pensions funds that were never designed to be paid to an individual for over 35 years (assumings a retirement age of 65) will dry up, and there will come a time when the younger populace will begin to resent carrying the burden of the older people, and the older people will live in gated communities to protect themselves from being atttacked by roving gangs of unemployed youth. Unless ..
… unless the US embraces immigration. Immigrants that revitalize the economy, that produce more kids and are hungry to succeed and make a life for themselves.

48 thoughts on “Ageing America

  1. Dear Shekhar,
    I agree that immigration helps revitalize the economy, but the US has always been a proponent of immigration, and that’s why the economy has been fueled by so many wonderful brains. I for one have never felt that the US does not endorse immigration, and I have never felt more at home outside of India, than in the US. The US policy is only against illegal immigration and regular immigration takes place from all over the world, although the numbers could be increased. My deep love for America may lead me ignore some flaws, but I have never been discriminated ever at an Airport or inside the US in my entire 9 yrs. Like lonely planet says, welcome to the land of the most approachable and friendly natives in the world.
    The US healthcare is paid for generally by people themselves and insurance companies, so most likely these older people might lose health insurance if they can’t afford the co-pays, but the young generation is not really directly paying for their costs. This case is more likely in Europe and Canada where people are taxed more, so than the govt. can provide free healthcare, most of which is spent on the elderly.
    The older generation may feel ostracized, but that may not be because of their health care costs, rather they are just considered unimportant in the capitalistic economy. I believe that is the case all over the world right now – even in India the joint family system is almost completely breaking down in cities. It’s very important to earn well while you are working, as that might be the only true reliable friend and source of dignity in old age.
    Himanshu – NY

  2. huun.
    shekhar, just to balance things and look at things from another perspective not all Americans are soulless-youth or old – as it is everywhere.
    people are people first and Americans,Asians etc later.
    Its a natural law that matter from higher density areas moves to low density areas- the law of diffusion.And no amount of artificial human intervention can block that spread for long.
    So immigration will happen but taking a little longer is better as better processes will come in place.(I think 2050 is long enough)
    Plain evolution again but only better as they say in hindi-‘Der aai par durust aai’ or ‘Sahaj pake so meetha hoi’

  3. Shekhar, you write about 50 years hence like there will be no advances in stuff like robotics, nanotechnology, computing prowess, and newer more potent energy sources that will offset all the negative projections about the demise of the US system. Also, the US is the leader of innovation and will likely remain so even if the manufacturing and servicing may move to other countries. For example, the ipod is almost entirely assembled outside the US, but half of its $$ value from sales worldwide comes to Apple USA because it was innovated there. Innovation is the key to leadership and the US/Europe/Japan are way way ahead of the rest of the world. These countries will innovate their way to continue their current standards of living or even better them. I have no doubt about that.

  4. dear shekhar,
    ur statistics brought to mind the current controversy raging around Michael Moore’s SICKO… the michael moore versus CNN – wolf blitzer – dr. sanjay gupta episode… (accessible on features
    a clip from a Republican debate and shows Rudy Guiliani saying “…socialised medicine will ruin medicine in United States…”
    with such an ‘old future’ in the offing, it is really surprising the the most developed nation on the planet still has not put ‘social’ systems in place to care for its aged…
    but then that is america and as you rightly said, their destiny surely depends on how wealthy they are…
    i feel, that while in the interiors of countries like india and china, the focus should be education, sustainable development and primary healthcare, the urban regions of the country need a separate agenda and in the cities, now is the time to put in systems and measures in place to ensure that its current “young” population has adequate framework in place to support it…
    the more i think about it, the more i come to realize the need for a dual-pronged approach to policy-making in india and china… since the chasm of needs of the urban and the interiors of these countries is only going to widen as we go ahead…
    and it is upto individuals to make this distinction and pitch in their best to the benefit of both – bharat and india – rather than criticise developed nations for their apathy or materialism… i feel it is much better to learn from their mistakes and re-align our own growth and agenda…

  5. And…
    ‘A new beginning’ is not just about Partition…
    Its about some ’10’ new beginnings and going…
    thank u.

  6. Regarding Partition:
    “And I wondered, what turned us all into such beasts ?”
    Do check out #18 and #19 under the post.

  7. When I see the social support systems in place in the US I wish India had them too. There is absolutely no government support for the disabled, elderly, unemployed. Will it ever come about?
    Social support systems or not, I’ve met the warmest and most generous people I’ve known inspite of their struggles. This society inspires me in more ways than one.

  8. sir,
    as long they live ,so also their mindset about the Indians or any developing countries ..and it will be a long wait to see another generation that will look into facts that fiction about Us Indian a new beaning of New generation is a long distant dream i feel with this medical boon you call …its same with old generation all over the world even in India also look at our caste system,its what i feel

  9. interesting.. saw recent report about California population, which is set to increase to 60million by 2050– spainish speakers to increase by 55% and asian by 13%(from currently 11%) but importantly report send asian populations displace populations movement will be both-ways (increase and decrease) but spainish speakers will be increase and will be major workplace.

  10. Dear Shekhar.
    I certainly hope that this doomsday theory does come true for North America, I mean no country deserves to be a dominant superpower for almost a century [and America has a lot of bad Karma to pay for as well]
    Well, only one

  11. “khabie kissi ko
    muqamal jahan nahin milta
    kahin zamin to kahin aasman nahinmilta” kaifi Azmi.
    You can’t be beautiful, lucky, fortunate ,Intelligent and rich at the same time. None of the system is working well. It seems …Nothing is perfect.
    what we saw in today’s world is that, All the religions, which were made to make life better are turning out disaster…! What if we abolish all of them…Anyway they are too old . One constitution of the world has to be evolved instead of 1000 theories. One theory and one book,which is more scientific practical and is not, with many interpretations, (which can’t be manipulated in many different ways to make coming generations life even more miserable).I think our books ,which tell us about right and wrong have became to old and their real meaning been lost with many different interpretations since many years.The books which were originally written in a language ,most of them does not exist any more, and meaning of them had became something else in centuries.Revival of basic theories after every 50 years is important …I guess.
    Sanjay Malhotra

  12. Hi,shekhar, I discovered your blog today as pleasant surprise for me.In your busy schedule you manage to write blog almost everyday.Your thoughts or scribilling from Zen Buddhism to water problem in Banglore only shows how deeply you feel and think across all aspects of life.Really,wonderful….Reaching to you few years back would be near to impossible but thank god !!!!!!!!! Internet…Well,I know you are philospher and visionary kind of person and you see all things in life as pintch of salt.Your movies shows that.I cant forget how you bring humour in serious moments of movies like Elizabath…Golden age promos too look great and this time I’m sure Oscar will come your way….I”ll write more later…bye..

  13. Dear Mr Kapur, I discovered your blog-spot by chance. A newspaper journalist in Today (Singapore) referred to an article in your blog saying something about gossip being necessary. (and to the effect that we have no knowledge of how vital it is to gossip) An interview on the Beeb long time back, had you making the same reference. (I hope I haven’t misquoted you) What I write about has no reference to your current thoughts on an aging American society. (but I know no other way than this to connect with you..and hopefully get a reply.) Forgive the intrusion. Instead it has to do with me and my desire to blog. In my country we think twice about gossiping, about blogging. I was, in a former life, a broadcast journalist. I now lecture 17 year olds. I want to know what prompted you to blog. I ask my friends… they all say they will read what I blog about. But the caveat is “I would never do it myself” the implication is I don’t have anything worth blogging about. You are a giant of a man and so I read your blog (after that article) but what of me? It’s still very much a spectator sport I think. Why did you start doing this? Is it a way of writing.. without the stringency of a diary/journal keeping or is it your way to get many around the world to feedback to you their thoughts? Don’t writers all have a great desire to be read.. If (a big if) I were to blog — am I wanting to be read? My 17 year olds blog and my younger colleagues at work blog.. So why did you? — Warmest (and a great fan of yours after the Beeb interview) – Shobi.
    Do you watch Asianet (Malayalam channel) they do the most realistic of movies, I feel. Even interviews. One leg crossed over the dhoti, by the canal.. one leg dangling down the canal, a cockerel (black no less!) in the background..and a coconut tree in the background, green all around … In Singapore we would never dream of interviewing a director against such a backdrop, talking about a wonderful movie, yet in that simple background he is not at a loss of words for a poignant, significant, profound moment ( there are many such moments peppering the film) in the film – Shobi

  14. Or kill the burdensome senior citizens like the French Government clandestinely did during the summer some years back.
    Indian economy factors in Family values – Western economy is all about consumption – Seniro american citizns have a lot to worry about.
    They will endure lonely , fearsome old age without support before they die in a pitiless society.
    Somethin Gotta pay !!

  15. Dear Shekhar,
    I saw a very interesting film called ‘Synthetic Pleasures’ at the MOMA two days back and I wanted to mention it here. The film talks about how humans are trying to adapt the environment to themselves, rather than adapting themselves to the environment. It talks about ‘Cryonics’ a unique field where humans are frozen at -196C and they can be revived many years/decades later. I had seen some small news clippings long back about it, but for the last 2 days I did quite a bit of research on it. The field is led by the ‘Alcor Life Extension Foundation’ based in Arizona and they already have 70 people in frozen state, a state called biostasis. The aim is to prevent any cellular decay and also to give time for science to develop i.e. if a person is frozen for 50yrs, then at the time of revival science may have a cure for whatever the condition was at the beginning because we have preserved the body at that state. If cryonics can safely freeze and revive people, thereby extending life for howsoever long, I am sure the whole concept of life would change.
    Himanshu – NY

  16. Interesting read, Himanshu. But I think Cryonics is a waste of time and just another commercial venture. The catch lies in the fact that the frozen bodies cannot be revived. Not now, not ever.
    The human race has been trying to preserve their dead bodies in the hope of revival later since ages. Isn’t that what the Egyptians were trying to do many ages ago with their Mummification procedure?

  17. Hi Navin,
    I agree with the fact that cryonics hasn’t perfected the process of revival at this point, but I can’t surely say that they never will (they say by 2050 they might be). The US laws don’t allow live bodies to be frozen even with consent, so they start the process 2-3 minutes after legal pronouncement and they believe that there is no degeneration for upto 10 min (so there is no memory loss) while lots of cryoprotectants are injected in the body. Whether the modern process is better or worse than the mummification process is difficult to judge, but I believe the medicine of today is pretty advanced and if the cause was not worthwhile they may not be able to attract talent to run their labs. Again, a lot of things have looked impossible before they became possible e.g. a plane, going to moon. On an optimistic level, I see some hope for people willing to be suspended to have an invaluable peek at the future world. We are discussing this in 2007 and maybe 30-40 yrs later people may be applauding it.
    Take Care,
    Himanshu – NY

  18. Dear Himanshu,
    Its not only us who are discussing this in 2007. People had discussed and tried that before too, 4000 thousand years ago. Atoms and molecules were discussed in Mahabharata as (Anu and bhramaastra).And people in 2050 will still be discussing life and death. Its ok… to the point of a film or a story. We didn’t achieve nothing yet, we are not able to control the small crimes like hate, jealousy, murder , war …in 5000 years here and we are talking about putting life in dead bodies. And even if we achieve that, I ‘am sure its not going to be good for this world. Let us let it be the way it is, That’s made by nature. So far a film is concerned I can tell you a better plot story and idea,… WHAT ABOUT A story, where human beings started driving this earth and they take the earth into that part of universe where it has the four suns and seven moons…and then every day they drive this earth to a different zone.If it gets real in 200 years people may be applauding it.

  19. Has anyone read Deepak Chopra’s ‘Ageless Body Timeless Mind’? – a wonderful book

  20. Dear Himanshu,
    Imagine a scenario where no one dies and new people keep getting born. This planet will explode with population! LOL. I’m all for being an optimist, but the human race getting victorious over death in 50 years from now seems a bit too ambitious. The US authorities not allowing living people to be frozen is not a deterrent for the scientific community……….if it was possible, they would have done it even if it was illegal. Scientific curiosity doesn’t care for any laws. I’m sure they would have frozen other animals alive to test this procedure. Even if they freeze someone who is alive and in good health, he/she will die in a short time.
    Hi Sanjay,
    I like your idea of us driving the planet Earth to different locations in Space. It conjures up great visuals in my imagination. I’m sure if some enterprising film-maker decides to make a film on this theme, it will be a cracker of a film. I’ll produce it if some Studio backs me up.

  21. Dear Sanjay,
    There will always be a vast majority who would say “let it be,” but there will also be a very small minority who will take things head on and change things. NASA, stem cell research, cloning, geo-stationary satellites are examples of the vision and execution of this small minority of mankind. You could say that there is no need to find the cure for AIDS if nature does not provide it, and let us instead look for the Sanjeevni Booti for a cure. Nature has laws and they can be circumvented by human vision and intelligence. The Bonsai technology to grow fruits on small size trees is one such innovation. Cloning may be able to create a healthy copy of an ill individual. Most of the great innovations have taken place in recent times – now we can talk to anyone on the planet by pressing a button, have video conferences across continents. If we had left it to nature, we would never be talking here – nature did not give us the Internet.
    I like your amusing idea of transporting earth to other parts of the universe, but unfortunately we are very fragile beings and can only survive in very limited climatic conditions, so no one will survive if earth goes out of orbit.
    Take Care,

  22. …better still, create a “wormhole” and park it very close to the Earth and then “bring” other parts of the Universe to us…
    Ever see a really silly (but with good VFX) UK TV series called “Space 1999” ? – the Moon breaks free from Earths orbit (Earth is destroyed in the process…)and floats through space like a giant space ship (Death Star ?) with some Earth people on it…
    If we were able to miniaturise ourselves, we might be able to solve over population and over crowding issues – we would also be continually fighting off over-grown domestic pets…

  23. Dear Himanshu,
    What if science and technology finds the alternatives to survive in various zones of orbit.If we can find a way of putting life in deads then I am sure we can find the ways to survive in out of orbit too…just a thought!
    My main idea is that all the inventions and technology is for making this world a better place to live in.Can we make a tablet to kill the germs of poverty, war ,terrorism and hate among us, If we can! then let us make that first…We have achieved a lot in science and technology but why still there is so much chaos in the world .Basically as humans we still in the stone age.Only thing which has changed is …Bombs(technology) has taken the place of stones.

  24. everyone has many folders on their PC’s desktop…even i have…lots of them…
    i was too tired… just surfing idiotically after a long time… after some time i clicked on one of the folders and dragged it out of it location…i kept revolving the mouse for a while and along with the pointer the folder too kept revolving while the original folder was at its place…
    after few more seconds, i dragged the copy folder far away from the original one…and left the mouse…
    the original folder immediately took the place of copy folder…they were one again..
    something very strange stirred inside me… it had happened…quite a few times…hell lot of times…
    the original folder was like BODY and the dragged one was like SPIRIT…free to revolve…
    and once it was out of the body, it lost its original place…it took another place where the SPIRIT was… just like an another birth…
    i switched off the PC… and i sat alone in the darkness… observing…!

  25. Dear Shekhar
    I read recently that India is on its way to its own aging population crisis.
    I doubt, given the decline in the US economy, increase in healthcare retail prices, increased obesity in US citizens, and environmental stresses worldwide, that 2050 will find most US elders expecting to live to the age of 100 — unless major major changes happen in the next decade or so, to correct the many imbalances in our lives. I would be totally unsurprised if ages decline, rather than increase.
    Until other countries pay more than the US does in wages and benefits, most young US workers won’t emigrate.
    Many many pension funds have already dried up. The entire US economy is already feeling the weight of retirees, some of whom retired as early as 45 years, when companies downsized and offered early retirement packages.
    Only the most well-heeled of US elders can afford to live in gated communities. A more likely scenario is one of well-to-do younger citizens hiding in their gated communities from the many roving hordes of starving, addled elders.
    The US already embraces immigration, both legal and otherwise. The 1999 census counted more 40% of NYC’s population as immigrant, to give one example. The real percentage is higher, because many illegals weren’t counted. NYC schools are overflowing with kids. We have had to build dozens of new schools in the past 20 years, to handle these kids. Do immigrants make our economy more vital? They make it different. NYC has always had a vibrant economy. But now, only the poorest and most well-to-do can afford to live in much of the city. This is due in very large part to the massive pressure on middle and lower class housing from the pool of illegal immigrants, who’ve made a previously non-existent market for thousands of apartments illegally divided up into dangerous dormitory rooms.
    Lots has been said about US people not wanting to take low-paying jobs. They were blamed for being too lazy to take low-paying jobs, which supposedly opened the way for illegal immigrants to take them. The way it actually happened was: illegal immigrants came in and offered their bodies for pay so low that if a US person had accepted it, they’d need to be homeless to survive. That changed the economics of low-paying jobs. US people could not afford to take them.
    Fact-checking is a good thing, sometimes.
    love, Heath

  26. Dear Sanjay,
    I think anything is possible and the only thing that is required is ‘creativity.’ Just like the people at the cryonics labs working to revive the frozen humans, there is no doubt that it’d be possible for regular humans to go far in space (if not the whole of earth) sometime in the future. All we need is a ‘creative solution’ to any problem, and then concerted effort to execute that. There are hundreds of areas to be explored and the human race wakes to something at some point in time, and then the work begins to find a solution, and then execute it. Tomorrow we may decide to inhabitate the moon on a rotating basis, just like we created the manned space station, and it may become a reality in 20yrs. Everything comes with its share of possibility and that’s the hope with which we live by.
    Luckily, your film idea can be executed without any advancements in astronomy, as it may work as fiction. As Alfred Hitchcock once said, ‘the main job of a filmmaker is to narrate an unbelievable story in such a way that it becomes immediately believable.’ All you need is to find somebody who buys your idea, and then the work begins on execution.
    Take Care,
    Himanshu – NY

  27. Listen to it,
    One day authorities decide to park Earth in a zone where we have the one moon and 3 suns .Every one is amazed …but as time passes, we start worshiping those suns and some of us start worshiping moon ,now we get divided in 3 suns and one moon..few years later we start to argue about, which sun is bigger and better…then sun people start fighting with the moon people and OUR (we human beings) life on earth remains the same.(nothing changes) Now sun worshipers start killing moon lovers and again it become chaos…At the end finally “The earth driving authorities” decides that we should go back from where we came from… and instead of NASA ,Lets invest in “Bhassa”(just a fictitious name) .,a research which will make all of us a better beings on earth ….INVEST ALL THE MONEY TO REFOME BASIC HUMAN NATURE…WHICH consists so many different point of views ,FOR WHAT..Even they can kill each other….then we realize that foundation has to be cured …no matter where you take this planet it is going to be unhappy because happiness lies with in…And finally we have “Bhassa” AND NASA gets less funding then “Bhassa”….But thing are still same.. just A FICTION….!
    Even I don’t know

  28. Dear Shekhar ji
    Please please please do follow the following link if you are not an avid watcher of Saregamapa on Zee Tv .
    I request you to send a message of congratulations to Mussarat Abbas for such a stupendous redention of the song Saanwre from your pic Bandit Queen.. I am no relation of his but such a mindblowing performance deserves due kudos & I am sure his day will be made by hearing from you.. do it only after hearing & seeing the video..
    Dr. Neeraj Kaul
    Gwaior M.P.

  29. Dear Shekhar:
    I think the nations rise because of three things:
    1. Scientific Temper
    2. Trade Strength
    3. Military superiority.
    When a nation or a society goes down, First and foremost, the scientific temper goes down. That is the leading cause. Second is the Military strength, and third is the trade strength.
    In case of US – it is rather funny, as its trade strength is going down BEFORE its Military strength!
    There was an interesting analysis I had done on my blog (also published on Kavita Chhibber’s blog) that traced the economic history of India for 2000 years. I think the insights from that journey are incredible!

  30. Shayad sochte honge kaha pahunch jaathi hu…
    Achanak aapka website meri nazron pe para, ye umeed nahi karti ki aap hummeh open meh replies deh, like u do to ur fans etc, samaj sakti hu zamana ek mehfil aur humare tamashe ka luft utaya jaatha hai…
    Na janeh aapko yaha dekha tho yu laga jaise kahi ek darwaaze se jo nikli thi kabhi waha fir wapis laut gayi…
    I dont know much of you, i dont know much of any actors etc, never had time and inclination….always in my ocean of thoughts, so untamed is my mind and life….
    Once many years back, was facing life n death of a different order, doh raah pe khari thi…kahi aapko shayad tv meh kisi programme meh dekha tha, ek jhalak shayaad, or maybe i read in some magazine…cant recollect…never read them either par ek awaaz mereh seeneh meh humehsa…
    You said:
    “I had to be ruthless to achieve what i wanted!”
    I became ruthless too…it struck me somewhere kabhi kisi ki awaaz ya kehna seeneh meh reh jaatha hai….
    Aaj khudko dekhti hu…fir appko….aur na janeh kaha kiss jahan meh kitne sawal kitni gehraiyon meh beh jaane lagi..
    Yu lagta hai kabhi sabkuch milkar bhi kuch nahi milta…ruthless….to be ruthless is so ruthless!!
    So Ruthless!

  31. “samaj sakti hu zamana ek mehfil aur humare tamashe ka luft utaya jaatha hai…”
    Dear DestinyQueen,
    I’m sure Shekhar must have read your posts with a smile in his eyes. Main bhi padhte padhte muskura raha tha. I know. He has that effect on women. 😉
    Aur rahi baat tamasha banne ki, toh is duniya mein har insaan kabhi tamashai hota hai toh kabhi tamasha. No big deal.

  32. Dear Shekhar,
    I remember you were having difficulty preparing the meals of your choice living single in London. Here is the solution. Now you can order authentic Indian cuisine delivered directly at your door at reasonable prices. Go here:
    Specially check out their Peshawari Dal Makhani in the Heat & Eat section, it’s just great.
    Statutory Disclaimer: I am a shareholder in this company.

  33. Dear Shekhar,
    Every Friday I go to the Rubin Museum of Art where they show a classic film that somehow relates to finding yourself (e.g. KUNDUN, GREYHOUND DAY, SHANGRILA etc). I saw SAMSARA a couple of years back and that film really had a great impact on me. The main line of the film – How do you prevent a drop of water from ever drying up? The Answer- By throwing it into the sea.
    The museum focuses on Buddhism and Tibettan/Himalyan art and this Friday I met somebody who told me many wonderful stories about Buddhism that I almost felt transformed. I have been watching videos about the life of Buddha on youtube for the last 2 days and I found this really great one made my BBC which I’m sure you’d like:

    Himanshu – NY

  34. Navin,
    I’m moving to london next month ,Though I ve a wife there but I will give a shot to never know may be their meals are better then home!Lol..

  35. “Though I ve a wife there”
    Hi Sanjay,
    I couldn’t help but comment on this. Lol. Since you wrote *a wife* and not *my wife*, I have to ask you, how many you’ve got? One in the US, one at London? Some guys have all the luck!………….. Just kidding.
    Yep, I found some of Kohinoor’s preparations better than home cooked food, like the dal makhani I mentioned. Must try.

  36. Navin,
    Wife can be only one, atleast per our culture and law…
    Rest is as Gulzar said”Pyar ko pyar hi rehne do koi naam naa do…! ha ha.
    Anyhow I will try that as you said “better than home cooked food!”.specially indian food is more tasty in UK than US.But India is on top.In food matter, Amritsar and Delhi is the best.Home is always Home anyway.

  37. Hi Shekar, I chanced upon your blog today and am glad you have this going. Back in the days of Uddhan, I had many a times wondered if there could be a medium through which we could know you better. I was 11yr old talkative girl then. For all these years you haven’t dissapointed me in you performance as an artist. Thanks for being yourself. Warm regards, Renuka

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