Increasing opportunities for the productive engagement of older adults: A response to population aging

Ernest Gonzales, Christina Matz-Costa, Nancy Morrow-Howell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


"Productive aging" puts forward the fundamental view that the capacity of older adults must be better developed and utilized in activities that make economic contributions to society-working, caregiving, volunteering. It is suggested that productive engagement can lead to multiple positive ends: offsetting fiscal strains of a larger older population, contributing to the betterment of families and civil society, and maintaining the health and economic security of older adults. Advocates claim that outdated social structures and discriminatory behaviors limit participation of older adults in these important social roles as well as prevent the optimization of outcomes for older adults, families, and society. We ask two important questions: (a) How can we shape policies and programs to optimally engage the growing resources of an aging population for the sake of society and older adults themselves? and (b) How can policies pertaining to productive engagement reduce health and economic disparities? We answer these questions by first describing the current state of engagement in each of the three productive activities and summarize some current policies and programs that affect engagement. Next we highlight challenges that cross-cut productive engagement. Finally, we provide policy recommendations to address these challenges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)252-261
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2015


  • Caregiving
  • Disparities
  • Employment
  • Productive aging
  • Social policy
  • Volunteering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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