Old age is the last and most devastating segregation in our country. We are a society obsessed with youth and staying young, whose citizens and government have turned their backs on the lives and needs of the elderly.The problems of older Americans have received much publicity in recent years. Those problems have been the focus of reform efforts by senior citizens' groups and others, including your members. Nonetheless, the problems of aging have yet to become a popular cause, like the consumer movement or the environmental movement, attracting widespread support among diverse groups of citizens and politicians.Perhaps the reason is fear -- fear of the wasteland we have made of old age. The truth is that old age is an empty legacy for millions of Americans: it is losing your eyesight, being deprived of your mobility, and finally robbed of your human dignity.In certain ancient tribal societies, where the chief pursuits were hunting and warfare, when a person became too old for these activities he was placed ceremonially on a raft and allowed to float down a river.The tribal leaders assured everyone that the hapless elder was floating to a better place and a better life. No doubt many of the younger members of the tribe had secret misgivings, and some thought with apprehension about their inevitable turn on the raft.In modern society we repeat in many symbolic ways the ritual on the river bank. We who participate in it also doubt its validity, fear its implications for ourselves, yet yield to what appears to be its necessity in the pursuit of our immediate preoccupations.There must always be a justifying mythology when a dominant group systematically and for its self-interest disadvantages a less powerful minority. In this case, we have developed two stereotypes of the aged to justify our neglect -- serenity and senility.