Happy birthday！ Do birthdays really make people happy？ Of course they do. Birthdays celebrate the day we were born. Moreover， that extra candle on the cake represents another year of growth and maturity-or so we hope. We all like to imagine that we're getting wiser and not just older. Most of us enjoy observing the miracle of growth in others， as well. For instance， seeing our children develop and learn new things makes us feel proud. For Americans， like people in most cultures， growing up is a wonderful process. But growing old？ That's a different story.
Growing old is not exactly pleasant for people in youth-oriented American culture. Most Americans like to look young， act young and feel young. As the old saying goes， "You're as young as you feel." Older people joke about how many years young they are， rather than how many years old. People in some countries value the aged as a source of experience and wisdom. But Americans seem to favor those that are young， or at least "young at heart."
在美国这个以年轻人为中心的社会中，老化对人们而言并不是一件愉快的事，大部份的美国人都希望自己看起来年轻、行动年轻、并且感觉年轻，如一句古老的名言说：「你感觉自己有多年轻，你就有多年轻。」老年人说自己的年龄时常开玩笑说自己是多少 years young，而不说多少 years old .某些文化中的人视老年人为经验与智能的资源，可是美国人似乎比较喜欢年轻人，或者至少是「心里年轻」的人。
Many older Americans find the "golden years" to be anything but golden. Economically， "senior citizens" often struggle just to get by. Retirement-typically at age 65-brings a sharp decrease in personal income. Social Security benefits usually cannot make up the difference. Older people may suffer from poor nutrition， medical care and housing. Some even experience age discrimination. In 1987， American sociologist Pat Moore dressed up like an older person and wandered city streets. She was often treated rudely-even cheated and robbed. However， dressed as a young person， she received much more respect. Of course， not all elderly Americans have such negative experiences. But old age does present unique challenges.
Ironically， the elderly population in America is expanding-fast. Why？ People are living longer. Fewer babies are being born. And middle-aged "baby boomers" are rapidly entering the ranks of the elderly. America may soon be a place where wrinkles are "in." Marketing experts are already focusing on this growing group of consumers. And even now the elderly have a great deal of political power. The American Association of Retired Persons （AARP）， with over 30 million members， has a strong voice in Washington.
A common stereotype of older Americans is that they are usually "put away" in nursing homes and forgotten about. Actually， only about 5 percent live in some type of institution. More than half of those 65 or older live with or near at least one of their children. The vast majority of the elderly live alone and take care of themselves. According to the U.S. Census Bureau， 75 percent own their own homes. Over a million senior adults live in retirement communities. These provide residents with meals， recreation， companionship， medical care and a safe environment.
Despite the challenges they face， Americans in their "twilight years" generally refuse to give up on life. They find a variety of ways to keep themselves active. To help them stay in shape， they may join mall walkers clubs， fitness programs and even the "Senior Olympics." They can enjoy hours of entertainment at senior centers and adult amusement parks. Many enroll in continuing education programs to maintain their mental skills. For Americans， if you're going to grow old， you might as well do it gracefully.