Campus & Community

Conference looks at aging in America

3 min read

As one of the largest population groups in history moves toward retirement, a Harvard colloquium has been organized to explore the ramifications of a phenomenon that will impact the economy, health care, politics, and culture in the United States and around the world. “The Demographic Revolution: Prospects for a Maturing World” will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., May 18, at the Ames Courtroom at the Law School.

Demographic studies show that society is aging rapidly as overall health improves and the elderly live longer. In 1950, one in 12 Americans was 65 or older. By 2000, the ratio had increased to one in nine, and by 2050, it is projected that one in every five people will meet or surpass the current retirement age. In Europe, the retirement age has already fallen to 55. If the trend toward a younger retirement age takes hold in the United States, an estimated 70 million members of the baby boom generation will be eligible to retire before the year 2020.

Colloquium presentations will address issues such as the impact of the declining work force on economic growth and the effect of an aging demographic on politics, health care, and consumer spending patterns.

The colloquium marks the 25th anniversary of the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement (HILR), which is co-sponsoring the event with the Generations Policy Project of the Kennedy School’s Center for Business and Government. Co-moderated by Leonie Gordon, director of HILR, and Paul Hodge, director of the Generations Policy Project, the colloquium is open to the public.

The Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement was established in 1977 by Dean Michael Shinagel of Harvard’s Division of Continuing

Education in recognition of the importance of cultivating the wealth of accumulated knowledge of the retired community and the need for members of this diverse group to continue their intellectual growth. Since that time, more than 2,000 people have taken part in the institute’s programs. Over the past 25 years, HILR has been used as a model for some of the 300 institutes of learning in retirement that have sprung up across the country and around the world.

The Generations Policy Project at the Kennedy School’s Center for Business and Government was created to conduct innovative research on the effect of aging on the economy, health care, politics and other areas. The project aims to drive effective intergenerational national dialogue to devise policies to address the aging population and society’s changing needs.

For more information, contact Leonie Gordon at (617) 495-4072 or email her at