It has long been obvious that the 65-and-over population doesn’t fit the Depression-era stereotype of being uniformly poor, sickly and helpless.
Like under-65 Americans, those 65 and over are diverse.
Some are poor, sickly and dependent. Many more are financially comfortable (or rich), in reasonably good health and more self-reliant than not. With life expectancy of 19 years at age 65, most face many years of government-subsidized retirement.
The stereotype survives because it’s politically useful. It protects those subsidies. It discourages us from asking: Are they all desirable or deserved? For whom? At what age?
No one wants to be against Grandma, who — as portrayed in the media — is kindly, often suffering from some condition, usually financially precarious and somehow needy. But projecting this sympathetic portrait onto the entire 65-plus population is an exercise in make-believe and, frequently, political propaganda.
The St. Louis Fed study refutes the stereotype. Examining different age groups, it found that since the financial crisis, incomes have risen for the elderly while they’ve dropped for the young and middle-aged.
Once more, with feeling:
When Social Security was invented, the eligibility age was chosen as 65 because…