Golden age advocacy

Meeryoung Kim with 175th anniversary logo
Meeryoung Kim

Many nations worldwide find themselves facing the challenges that come with an aging population. More than 30 nations are on track to becoming “super-aged” by 2030, with over 20 percent of the population over age 65. The United Nations projects that by 2050, the number of individuals aged 65 years or above worldwide will be twice the number of children under age 5 and almost equivalent to the number of children under 12 years.

According to Meeryoung Kim, MSSW, PhD ’01, this issue will have a notable impact on Korea as an aging society. Kim noted that approximately 20% of the population in Korea will be age 65 or older in 2025. According to the Korean Statistical Information Service, by 2050 40% of the population will be over 65, and among that group 40% will be older than 80.

As an internationally respected scholar and leader, Kim has ample insights from the gerontology field. Kim served as professor in the Community Development and Welfare Department at Korea’s Daegu University for 21 years. During that time, she founded and directed the university’s Institute of Aging, dedicated to the study and improvement of aging and gerontology.

Though now retired from teaching, Kim remains a prominent voice in conversations on aging populations worldwide. She founded the Korean/Korean American and Aging Interest Group of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) and is now serving as co-convener. Kim is a GSA fellow. She is also founder and president of the Golden Age Forum, an organization bringing together experts from numerous fields to advocate for the well-being of older adults through community engagement, research, and policy development.

“I am really focused on successful aging,” said Kim. “I want to be an advocate of older people in Korea and help improve the quality of life for all.”

Kim would like to see governments put greater effort into supporting aging societies, not only financially, but also ensuring that aging populations continue to have the opportunity to be active in all aspects of society and everyday life. This can be a challenge in Korea where mandatory retirement as early as age 60 displaces many who are in good health with much to contribute.

In addition to Kim’s work and advocacy for aging populations, she is also a committee member of the UW Korean Alumni Association and is a member of the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work (SSW) Board of Visitors.

Kim chose UW–Madison for her graduate studies because of the institution’s reputation as a top university in the field of social work. Despite the challenges of studying abroad, raising two children, and overcoming language barriers, she emerged as a distinguished scholar. Three professors, Marsha Mailick (social work), Karen Holden (human ecology), and Nancy Denney (psychology), served as role models, inspiring her dedication to hard work and excellence.

“They were my mentors, and I learned a lot from them,” Kim said. “They were very smart and valued hard work—as professors they were good role models.”

As a professor emerita, Kim continues to inspire through her leadership and advocacy, proving that retirement is not an end but a new beginning. Her work emphasizes the importance of supporting older adults and recognizing their valuable contributions to society.

“The golden age is 60-75, and many at this age are the happiest they have been and are at the top of their fields,” Kim said. “Even for me, it is a starting point in my life, even after I retire from my career.”