The Extreme Aged in America: A Portrait of an Expanding Population. Rosenwaike I, Logue B. Westport, Conn, Greenwood Press, Ine, 1985.
The Extreme Aged in America by Ira Rosenwaike with the assistance of Barbara Logue is a detailed demographic description of the most rapidly expanding segment of our elderly population, those 85 years and over. As the authors point out, in 1960 the 85-years-and-over group numbered 929,000 and by 1980 this group had climbed to 2,240,000, an increase of fully 141% above that of 1960. Presently, this segment of the population constitutes nearly 1% of the total population of the United States.
The book is grounded in the socioeconomic reality that this segment of the population is the most frequent user of the healthcare system and that social and health planners must begin now to prepare for the expanded services that this growing population will require. The Extreme Aged in America is an excellent reference source for demographic information on the population aged 85 and over that researchers and planners in gerontology can use.
Readers will find that the 13 chapters are well organized and readable and that the 102 tables of demographic data are laid out in a manner that makes comparisons of the information an easy task. The authors provide an excellent overview of the population expansion in Chapter 1 and an interesting discussion on the reliability of the data in Chapter 2. Chapters 3 through 10 provide indepth demographic information on such topics as age and sex distribution, race, ethnic group and national origin, geographic distribution, social and economic characteristics, living arrangements, health, mortality patterns, and international comparisons.
In Chapter 11, the authors provide projections of the future of the extreme aged population. They indicate that projections are important for two primary reasons; first, they facilitate planning, and second, they provide a clearer understanding of the effects of demographic factors on age-sex structure, population size, dependency ratios, and other characteristics. Chapters 12 and 13 consist of a book overview and data implications, respectively. The implications chapter focuses on the economic, healthcare, and social service factors of the extreme aged and details some of the current and potential sources of support for this segment of the population.
The book is interdisciplinary in its approach and as a result gerontologists, social scientists, healthcare economists, and public policy planners will find this a valuable and reliable resource of demographic data. Gerontological nurses involved in social and healthcare planning should consider using the book as a guide in their decision-making process. Researchers in gerontological nursing will also discover The Extreme Aged in America a useful tool. Instructors in gerontological nursing programs may consider this book an excellent supplement to another book for courses in health planning, an introduction to gerontology, or special topics.
The Extreme Aged in America is a welcome addition to the gerontological literature. Users of the book will find it a readable and important resource that should generate much "food for thought." I highly recommend this book, especially for social and health planners.