Getting Older

How We're Coping with Working and Living Longer

Around the mid-twentieth century, thanks to Social Security and the spread of company pensions programs, the idea that working life should end in a period of dignified retirement began to take hold in the United States. By the 1980s, the notion that retirees should enjoy some “golden years” of travel and relaxation had come to seem, to middle class Americans, like a natural right. But as the baby boom generation reaches retirement age—an estimated 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day—retirement remains a distant dream for many. Millions of them were laid off late in their careers or, with pensions mostly a thing of the past, haven't themselves saved enough for secure retirements. Increasing life expectancies and a weak job market mean that many are caring for elderly parents and providing for adult children—or both—while some seek to redefine their senior years.


Katherine Zoepf was a fellow in the Better Life Lab at New America. She is the author of Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives of Young Women Who Are Transforming the Arab World