Grand Challenges for Social Work Social Innovation Partnerships Working Paper

Increasing Productive Engagement in Later Life

Population aging is among the most profound transformations in all of human history. Life expectancy has more than tripled, with most of that extension coming in the last century (Finch, 2010). This demographic shift is very rapid—indeed a demographic revolution. In the United States, the number of people over the age of 65 will double between 2000 and 2030, with the number of people over 85 growing the fastest (Administration on Aging, 2013). This demographic revolution presents many grand challenges. This paper highlights the challenge of reshaping social expectations, institutions, policies, and programs to engage the growing human capital of the older population to meet the demands posed by an aging society. How can we change attitudes and expectations, as well as policies and programs, to optimally engage older adults in paid and unpaid work, for the sake of society and for older adults themselves? The challenge of increasing the productive engagement of older adults meets the criteria outlined by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare’s Grand Challenges for Social Work Initiative.

Project: Grand Challenges for Social Work


Morrow-Howell, N., Gonzales, E., Matz-Costa, C., & Greenfield, E. A. (2015). Increasing productive engagement in later life (Grand Challenges for Social Work Initiative Working Paper No. 8). Cleveland, OH: American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare.