The Federal Budget

APRIL 11, 1994 VOLUME 1, NUMBER 20

Just over half of all federal spending goes to “entitlements” programs, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Do you know what proportion of the budget goes to each of those programs? Or what makes up the other half of the budget?

According to the Congressional Budget Office’s figures, Social Security accounts for 21% of all federal spending. Medicare is responsible for another 10%, and federal retirement an additional 5%.

Medicaid (including long-term care) consumes just 6% of the federal budget–slightly more than half of the cost of Medicare. and all “means-tested” programs combined (including Medicaid, food stamps, SSI and family support) receive 13% of the budget.

Defense-related expenditures total 18% of the national budget, ahead of the 13% which goes to debt service. All domestic and foreign programs combined receive about 17%.

Time to Adapt to Aging

Arizona Daily Star, 3/30/94

“Early in the 20th century, when the average life expectancy was about 40, designers were safe in crafting medicine bottles, street signs, lighting, packaging, chairs and other products to the physical traits of young people.

As life expectancy approaches 80, the time has come to begin redesigning the world to recognize the physical and psychological needs of an aging population.

For the human body and brain do change over time. At age 40, 50 or 60, most people do not have the same vision, hearing, joint flexibility or muscle strength as people ages 20 or 30.

This may be no great revelation, except to the people who design products as if the entire population were young.

Standards for letter sizes on street signs, for instance, were developed in the 1940s, when the population was younger. Millions of people today can’t read the signs as intended–at a glance from a distance.

Older people differ psychologically as well. Many become accustomed to familiar products, for example, and don’t want changes just for the sake of calling something ‘new and improved.’ Yet, despite their enormous numbers, older people are forced to adapt to a world designed for the young.

Why is it, for instance, that controls on most televisions, VCRs and other consumer electronics equipment are black or dark gray? The aging eye has a particularly difficult time reading dark colors.

Why is it that chairs and sofas have enormous seats that make it difficult for people with joint problems to stand?

And medication bottles are the classic symbol of an aging society’s mania with designing for the young. Older people use many non-prescription drugs. Yet even younger people have difficulty opening some of the containers. Safety caps on pain relievers are only part of the problem. Medication packaging also includes inner seals on bottles that could blunt an ice pick, and tiny screw caps on tubes of creams and ointments. Unit doses are sealed inside tough plastic blisters.

Product design teams should include gerontologists and other experts who are sensitive to age-related body changes. Poor design is more than an inconvenience. It can be a serious health hazard, contributing to accidents.”

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