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The Ageing US Population and Environmental Policy

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This paper explores the potential ramifications of an ageing US population for near-term and future environmental policy. The US Census Bureau estimates that the US population 65 years old and older will number 39 million in 2010, 69 million in 2030 and 79 million in 2050. The population 85 years old and older will number 5.6 million in 2010, 8.5 million in 2030 and 18.2 million in 2050. Relationships between environmental problems such as air pollution and global warming and older persons' health issues are examined. Also addressed are the potential implications for environmental quality of how older persons allocate their time and money. Conflicts about environmental policy within generations of older persons and between older persons and younger generations already exist and may escalate as older persons seek both to protect themselves from environmental risks and to enjoy environmental amenities and financial security. It is argued that environmental protection will eventually prevail over economic concerns, not only because current support for the environment is high and increasing among generations of soon to be older Americans but also because the prospect of substantially increased life spans will lead people to act more actively to reduce environmental risks and enhance the surrounding environments where they will live. To better meet the needs of an ageing population while at the same time protecting the environment, innovations are needed in ecosystem management, urban design and economic policies. Expanded research and development programmes are needed to support each of these areas.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2001

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