Tuesday, Aug. 14, marked the 83rd anniversary of the enactment of Social Security, and we’ve got our fingers crossed it’s going to last another 83 years.

On Aug. 14, 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act and laid the foundation of modern American social policy. 

Today, millions of retirees, more than 150,000 in the 5th District alone, rely on Social Security’s guaranteed benefits for retirement security, to make ends meet, to put food on the table and to stay in their homes.

Acting Commissioner Nancy A. Berryhill has the responsibility for overseeing one of the nation’s largest and most important domestic programs.

She will be the first to tell you Social Security has expanded since its inception to not only protect against the risk of poverty in old age, but also the economic risk of career-ending disability and the premature death of a worker.  

In his statement at the signing of the Social Security Act, President Roosevelt said, “If the Senate and the House of Representatives in this long and arduous session had done nothing more than pass this bill, the session would be regarded as historic for all time.”

Historic because senior citizens for years have rested on the assurance that if they contribute to the system, when they retire their most basic needs will be met.

For many that has made growing old a much easier task with one less thing to worry about.

In recent years the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the administrators of the nation’s two health care safety net programs, have said that reforms included in health care legislation will extend the solvency of the Medicare program into the year 2029.

Other forecasts predict Social Security is expected to run out of money in 2034. Last year, the trustees report expected the theoretical combined Trust Fund balances to run out in 2034, and that’s the same projection that this year’s report made.

For me, my magic year is 2026, so that means I will have worked and paid into Social Security for almost 50 years only to be able to draw benefits for eight years…if I live that long.

We’ll try not to dwell on that thought.

Instant gratification

Eight years ago this month, we moved our only child to the College of William and Mary for his first year of undergraduate study.

Now fast forward to this week, and my sister will be sending her only child back to the University of Virginia to begin his second year of undergraduate studies.

Many other county parents also are completing this rite of passage for their young ones this month.

The deed will be accomplished with little fanfare, a great deal of sweat and a huge lump in the throats of many a mom and dad who try as they might to hold back any tears because they know it will be difficult to be sad for very long as their son or daughter will be right at home before the parents get off the campus on move-in day.

As any parent knows who has sent a child off to college, it makes for a big change back at home – I believe the official word used by college professionals is “transition.”

But that transition has changed drastically since the days of old — like when I first went off to college back in the fall of 1979.

These days the college transition is less dramatic and traumatic thanks to advances in modern technology with the mix of cell phones, texting, emailing, Facebook, Skype, Twitter, etc.

With just a few strokes on a keypad, parents can get instant gratification when their student responds to that text message or cell phone call. Just a simple one-word reply reassures that everything is fine in their world.

And if perchance, your child’s tone doesn’t sound exactly right in that text message or call, the concerned parent now has an opportunity to quickly contact them by means of Skype and Facetime and instantly read their child’s precious little face as it appears in full frame on the computer screen … to get the rest of the story.

It’s a new world these days with so much available technology that provides instant reassurance and gratification.

Back in our college days – and next year it will be 40 years (where has the time gone) – it must have been much more difficult to let the new young adults go off into the world to make “their transition.”

Back in our college days, we spoke with mom and dad about once a week, usually on weekend evenings when the telephone rates were cheapest, catching them up on all the important events of the past week.

At the end of the conversation, we always knew we had a whole week to do our thing before we next reported in.

Today’s college students, most of them anyway, no longer have that “luxury” of only reporting in once a week because mom and dad are now so accustomed to staying in touch constantly via modern technology.

That transition might just take a little longer these days, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Good luck to all our college freshmen and returning college students.

Have a great year.

Paula I. Bryant is the editor of The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at pbryant@gazettevirginian.com.​

Paula I. Bryant is the editor of The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at pbryant@gazettevirginian.com.