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Regardless of any specific theoretical paradigm, it is clear that the elderly have heard the voices from the past, and in the grandest legacy of the American republic, have assembled in multivariate ways to petition the government, initiating

a new era in the politics of aging
Binstock, Robert H. “A New Era in the Politics of Aging: How Will the Old-Age Interest Groups Respond?” Generations: Journal of the American Society on Aging . 19.3 (1995): 68-74. It is also clear that the elderly gain significant benefits by engaging in various forms of social interaction. Hubbard, Pamela, Perla Werner, Jiska Cohen-Mansfield, and Rochelle Shusterman. “Seniors for Justice: A Political and Social Action Group for Nursing Home Residents.” The Gerontologist . 32.6 (1992) 856-858. . Pamela Hubbard, et al. (1992), in a study of political activism among a relatively small sample of institutionalized (i.e. nursing home residents) seniors found that participation in an active and effective political action group helped seniors
fulfill their needs to be responsible and contributing community members, gain a sense of empowerment, and enhance their control over their environment. Residents are able to shed nursing home stereotypes . . . [and] enjoy the social benefits of participating . . . [in a group in which]the residents are not as sheltered as other institutionalized elderly.
Hubbard, Pamela, Perla Werner, Jiska Cohen-Mansfield, and Rochelle Shusterman. “Seniors for Justice: A Political and Social Action Group for Nursing Home Residents.” The Gerontologist . 32.6 (1992) 856-858.

Political and social activism

However, political activism among the elderly, regardless of the social benefits that accrue to members, is seldom seen as benign, and, as with most lobbying groups, the elderly must justify their positions vis á vis the positions of other lobbying organizations and the preeminent social, economic, and political interests of the polity as an aggregate. The largest, most financially secure, and arguably most politically powerful elderly advocacy group, AARP, has been criticized for its undemocratic methodology because

most members join for [the social and financial] benefits, [and]in doing so they automatically become part of a political army, fighting battles which they may or may not believe in.
“Old, But Far From Feeble,” The Economist 12 Mar. 1988: 30.

The aarp

According to the AARP (quoting Bureau of the Census statistics), there were, as of 1993, 32.8 million elderly representing 12.7% of the entire population of the United Sates and that number is expanding: the number of elderly has increased by 5% since 1990 compared to a 3% increase in the size of the population under 65, and by 2030 the number of those over 65 is projected by the Census Bureau to be 70.2 million or 20% of the entire population ( A Profile 1-2 [1994]), moreover,

the fastest growing segment of this older population is the age group 85 years and older; this segment is projected to double to 4.2 million persons by the year 2000
( INFO-PAK n. page. [1995]). Robert N. Binstock’s (1995) figure of 33 million members of the AARP (Binstock 71 [1995]) leads one to conclude that all people who are over 65 are members and indeed, the AARP (1995) lists its membership at
more than 33 million . . . [making it] the largest non-profit organization serving the needs of older persons in the United States
(AAARP News 1 [1995]), however, membership in AARP is not restricted to those who are considered elderly but is open to
anyone age 50 or older, both working and retired,
and, in fact,
over one-third of the Association’s membership is in the work force” (AAARP News
1 [1995]) which accounts for the seemingly disparately large numbers of participants. A Profile of Older Americans . (Washington: AARP, Program Resources Department, 1994) 1-9. Rhodebeck, Laurie A. “The Politics of Greed? Political Preferences among the Elderly.” The Journal of Politics. 55.2 (1993): 342-364. INFO-PAK (Washington: American Association of Retired Persons, National Gerontology Research Center, 1995) N. page. “AARP News: Fact Sheet.” (Washington: American Association of Retired Persons, Communications Division, 1995) 1-10.

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, Minority studies: a brief sociological text. OpenStax CNX. Mar 31, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11183/1.13
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