Our online host, Contexts magazine, is offering some free content, a selection of essays on aging, now through March 15th.  I borrowed the material below from the essay, “Facts and Fictions About an Aging America.”

The average American is aging… and fast.  Advances in public health — especially related to childbirth, infant mortality, and infectious disease — have led to longer lives.   “The result is that death has been permanently shifted from a phenomenon among the young to one of the old.”  This means that the age distribution in the U.S. has shifted from one shaped like a neat pyramid (in 1900), to one shaped kind of like a house (in 2000), to whatever shape that is they’re predicting in 2050:

The great news is that “active life span is increasing faster than total life span.”  That is, even though we live longer, we spend fewer of our years sick or disabled than ever before.  This is called (so you can impress your friends) the “compression of morbidity.”

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.