By Chris Adams

Paul Anderson describes himself as a glass-half-full kind of a guy. And when it comes to the aging of America, the good news is often missed.

Anderson, a senior vice president at AARP, led National Press Foundation fellows through an overview of research that detailed how lives for many older people are improving – despite real problems with pension shortfalls and health maladies.

One thing that is certain is that people are living longer. According to Anderson:

  • 2015 marked the first time in human history that people over 60 outnumbered children under 5;
  • By 2050, a quarter of the world’s population will be 60 or older;
  • And just seven years ago, only 19 countries had a life expectancy at birth of 80 years or older. Today, more than 33 countries do.

But there’s one factor Anderson said people often forget: “We’re not just living longer, we’re living better.”

He detailed a range of indicators show how advances in health care mean that older Americans have been given a “longevity bonus” that means they can continue working, exploring, volunteering and contributing to society.

This is due to advances in technology, and Anderson showed how – contrary to common belief – older Americans are quite plugged in to the internet, social media and even gaming.

One disconnect is on retirement planning. Anderson noted that, more often than not, Americans are comfortable with their own retirement prospects. At the same time, they think future generations in general won’t fare as well as those already in retirement.

AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for people over 50, has a related unit called the AARP Public Policy Institute that conducts and compiles research on a range of social, economic and policy issues. It also has a section for data on health and other demographic markers, many of which can be broken down to the local level.