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Seniors Helping Seniors: Maximizing Potentials

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Sunday Akin Olukoju
December 6, 2016


Two seniors, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, ran very vigorous campaigns in the 2016 U.S. general election. Both displayed a vigor and energy never imagined and proved that many older people are still active, resourceful and productive.

According to a report compiled by the U.S. Administration on Aging, there is an “increase in the percent of the population 60 and older from 6 percent in 1900 to 16 percent in 2000,” while “the percent of the population 65 and older” increased “from 4 percent in 1900 to 12 percent in 2000.” The report also shows a percentage increase “from 0.2 percent in 1900 to 1.5 percent in 2000 of the population 85 and older.”

Trend in Population Growth

photo_of_senior_helping_seniorThe projected increase for 60+ Americans is “25 percent in 2030 and 26 percent in 2050,” while Americans who are 65 years and older are “projected to be 19 percent in 2030 and 20 percent in 2050.” The group that will likely be most dependent, the 85 years and older population, is projected to increase by “2.3 percent in 2030 and 4.3 percent in 2050.”

The younger cohort of seniors (60+) will constitute a higher population than more dependent ones (85+). If properly harnessed, a huge pool of younger seniors could become a reliable resource for needy seniors, especially as “8.8 million (18.9 percent) Americans age 65 and over were in the labor force in 2015.” Despite this, “over 4.5 million people age 65 and over (10 percent) were below the poverty level in 2014.” 

In Canada, according to the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), seniors are Canada’s fastest growing demographic as “the first of the baby boomer generation turned 65 and Canada’s senior population reached 5 million” in 2011. With reports by the Canadian Institute for Health Information that “seniors accounting for less than 15 percent of the population today” will “consume approximately 45 percent of public health spending,” something urgent has to be done in addressing the rising costs.

 Seniors and Volunteering

Chappell and Prince, writing on the ‘Reasons Why Canadian Seniors Volunteer’ in the 1997 Canadian Journal on Aging concluded that “Volunteering has become increasingly recognized as governments try to shrink the public purse.” They found that seniors “volunteer for reasons of obligation and social value,” and “are more likely to be involved in service provision.” Hence, younger seniors should be sensitized, mobilized and deployed to help older seniors in various ways.

First, issues identified by Vanessa Sink of The National Council on Aging (NCOA) such as the renewal of the Older Americans Act (OAA) and Elder Justice Act (EJA), restoration of investments in aging services, advancement of legislation to improve access to Medicaid home and community-based services and finance long-term care (LTC), improvement of chronic care under Medicare, and the introduction of legislation to address the Medicare low-income protection cliff should be pursued using younger seniors as advocacy hawks to pursue lawmakers in their local jurisdictions.

Second, younger seniors between 60 and 65 could offer transportation services at a reduced rate to older seniors to cut rising cost. Fei and Chen, writing in the 2015 Case Studies on Transport Policy referenced the impact of ‘The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)’, and how the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) had “a significant operating deficit in providing its paratransit service” because “it is also the most expensive” despite being “one of the most efficient ways to help move people with disabilities and the elderly.” A ‘senior-helping-senior arrangement’ could eliminate the shortfall.

Third, and consistent with Roberto’s suggestion of multiple solutions with multiple players in multiple settings to eradicate elder abuse, younger seniors (60+) in various fields should be part of such a collective approach. As noted by Roberto in the 2016 American Psychologist, elder abuse affects at “least 1 in 10 older Americans.”

Fourth, younger seniors (60+) can assist older seniors (70+) overcome what Xie and Jaeger described in the March 2008 Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology as “ambivalence and negative attitudes toward political activities online.” Gleaning from Wicks’ research on ‘Older Adults and Their Information Seeking’ published in the 2004 Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian, younger seniors should help older seniors navigate the internet while seeking information, including voting online, given their “effort expectancy” identified by Powell et al in ‘e-Voting intent: A comparison of young and elderly voters’ published in the 2012 Government Information Quarterly.


According to Administration on Aging, “persons 65 years or older” numbering 46.2 million in 2014. With “over 4 million low-income adults over age 60 relying on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to stay healthy and make ends meet,” according to the National Council on Aging, using younger seniors to encourage older seniors to apply for SNAP is no longer an option, especially as “3 out of 5 seniors who qualify for SNAP do not apply.” This means 5.2 million seniors are without benefits. Barriers that cause low participation are “mobility, technology and stigma.” Involvement of younger seniors as partners in progress can alleviate these factors.

Author: Sunday Akin Olukoju, Ph.D. is the president of Canadian Center for Global Studies, a non-profit organization. He also teaches at Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada. Dr. Olukoju can be reached at [email protected].

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