According to this article:
HUMAN lifespan took a sudden leap about 32,000 years ago, allowing people to grow older and wiser, scientists revealed yesterday.
The five-fold jump in longevity may have been the key factor that shaped modern civilisation.
On the one hand, it would have led to more disease and disability. On the other, it would have not only encouraged social relationships and kinship bonds, but also the passing of information from old and experienced individuals to younger generations.
Since today’s youngster’s get very little information from their grandparents or for that matter from teacher’s substantially older than their parents and since most *useful* information resides in the mass culture, the value of having older population has substantially diminished. Perhaps acquiscing to the needs of the old is an evolutionary artifact like an appendix that we no longer need and that hurts us both in our political institutions and in our gross healthcare spending.