icon-email icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-print icon-rss icon-search icon-stumbleupon icon-twitter icon-arrow-right icon-email icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-print icon-rss icon-search icon-stumbleupon icon-twitter icon-arrow-right icon-user Skip to content
Senior Correspondent

The American Dream: Time for a Redefinition?

A CNN poll just released contains some sobering numbers. 59 percent of the adults surveyed don't believe it is possible to achieve the "American Dream" anymore, while 63 percent feel their children will grow up to be worse off. Though not spelled out in the survey, the phrase, American Dream, is generally interpreted as meaning hard work and perseverance will pay off in a better life.

With the increased concentration of wealth among the top tier of Americans, and the relative decline in middle and lower class wages, financial stability, and upward mobility, it is not difficult to understand these poll results.

The question is what do we do about it — accept and adjust or strive to change the perceptions and underlying reality? What can we do about it? Do you believe the poll is reflecting the real state of mind of the majority of Americans?

As a person living a satisfying retirement sometimes I feel I no longer have "skin in the game." I am not in the same place, mentally, and economically as those who responded to this poll. I no longer care about moving up the ladder, increasing my financial clout, buying and spending more, or working hard to achieve that elusive dream.

During the time I built a career and solidified my financial future as best I could, I was part of an America that rewarded hard work. This survey and basic awareness of how things are today, point to a society that is different.

I hasten to add that what I just said doesn't mean I don't care, in fact just the opposite. Being not directly involved in the day to day struggles gives me more time to think about where we are heading. It gives me the chance to see more clearly the growing inequity that is creating a yawning gap between those at the top of the ladder and those on the rungs below them (and those who can't even get on the ladder).

If the majority of our fellow citizens believe the American Dream is dead or no longer attainable what does that mean for all of us? How will that perception change our daily life and our future? If that hope is no longer alive, what is taking its place?

Retirement is a time of life when many become more involved with their community, with volunteerism, with family, or with seeing a wrong and trying to do something about it. What we may be facing is the rules of the game are changing. The basic glue that holds us together may be losing its grip.

I wish I knew what to do about it. I wish there was an answer that made sense. I can promise you that during our upcoming RV trip around the country I will be listening carefully to what people are saying and how they are living. I will be thinking about what a single, retired person can do, or should do.

So, I'll have to get back to you on this.

Stay Up to Date

Sign up for articles by Bob Lowry and other Senior Correspondents.

Latest Stories

Choosing Senior Living
Love Old Journalists

Our Mission

To amplify the voices of older adults for the good of society

Learn More