Living Old Interview with Leon Kass

Edited transcript, Living Old, PBS, March 7, 2006.


Describe what’s happening with the new rising elderly population in the United States.

One way to put it would be to say that we’re on the threshold of the first-ever mass geriatric society. … But what’s really new is massive numbers of people are living not just into their 60s and 70s, but well into their 80s and 90s, so the absolute number of old people is increasing. The percentage of the population that is over 65 is growing by leaps and bounds. And the percentage of the fastest growing [part] of the population — 85 years and over — they are expected to triple or quadruple before midcentury.

We haven’t even begun to contemplate what this means socially, in terms of work and retirement, in terms of uses of leisure, in terms of the economics of it, in terms of the meaning of having all these years at the end of life stacked up after one has finished one’s productive work, in a world where there are fewer and fewer people to whom one is naturally and genealogically connected.