The drumbeat that America is now an aging society has become a cliché. But remarkably little has been done to constructively examine how we can and should respond to the challenges that lie ahead. Political gridlock, an indifferent private sector, and individuals’ reluctance to face new situations all conspire to resist change until a crisis emerges. An aging society not only raises opportunities and problems for older Americans, but also for people of all ages as institutions change and new pressures are brought to bear in the areas of labor force changes, the distribution of resources across our society, health care needs, family relationships, and public infrastructure.

Research and policy analysis can contribute to heightening awareness of the challenges—and more importantly the potential impacts of various policy changes. But part of this effort must also focus on how change can take place and what motivates people to act.