This chapter highlights some of the current health programs and policies in place and changes in demographic trends for older adults living within American society. In addition, substantial changes within the social, political, and cultural expectations of communities over the past century pose challenges for policies and programs serving older adults. The chapter presents several issues emerge as realities within the context of policy development and program planning for older adults. These issues include changes in living arrangements, education levels, economic well-being, and rural population settings; trends in morbidity and mortality; and changes within the social, political, and cultural expectations of communities. Despite the availability of programs and services resulting from health policies, many programs have focused upon “medically necessary” services and have lacked a health promotion, health education, or community-based focus.
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Social, Political, Economic, and Demographic Factors and Historical Landmarks Impacting Aging and Disability Public Policy
This chapter helps the reader to be familiar with the demographic and social factors that influence and shape aging and disability policy over time and to be aware of policy changes over the past century within disability and aging public policy. It explains the contrast between advances in science and technology and public policy related to people growing older and people with disabilities. Landmarks serve as essential tools to help us recall specific historical events in time. Historical landmarks, science, and technology have played significant roles in the evolution of social policies; however, aging and disability policies may not have made as many strides as other areas throughout history. The chapter briefly discusses: the role of historical landmarks in shaping social trends and public policies; the relationship between historical landmarks and aging and disability-related policies; and trends in policy, social, and political influences and landmarks in the United States.
Aging policy is shaped by a variety of demographic, social, and economic factors. However, these factors are not the only influences on the development of public policy or aging/disability policies. Philosophical paradigms and theoretical frameworks also influence the actual development of policy and play a strong implicit role in how public policy is drafted. Values and philosophies guide the development of specific philosophical paradigms and shape how aging and disability policy is developed and implemented. This chapter explores how these realities play a role in the development and implementation of public policy and aging/disability policy. It showcases some of the realities that may prevent the implementation of the policy or program as envisioned. As a safeguard against a subjectively devised policy and program base, objective evidence and empirically driven initiatives can be developed by aging and disability policy advocates.