The Baby Boom generation represents people born in post-WW2 America. This group was born betwen 1946 and 1964. In 2011, this generation started to turn 65. Today there are over 40 million Americans age 65 or older. This is estimated to increase to 98 million by the year 2060. By 2040 the percentage of Americans age 65 or older will grow to 21.7% from the current 14.5%. There’s no getting around it, Americas population is aging and aging rapidly.
I don’t think that anyone can refute these statistics which are highly likely to become facts. The real question is – are we ready for this to happen? Do we have both the public infrastructure to deal with this and more importantly, do we have the industrial/business infrastructure to deal with this. If you watch television or notice the stream of ads on your Facebook feed and even if you read about the “desirable demographics” in the advertising world, the focus is mainly given to people in the 18-35 is considered to be the ‘desirable demographic’. So are we as a country/society ready for this explosion of population that’s considered to be old?
As a member of the population that’s essentially right in the middle of the desirable demographic and the senior citizen I would really have to say no but with the caveat that i do think that we are getting ready for it. One of it not the primary goal is going to be to maintain a degree of independence as we get older. This will delay or put off some of the most costly aspects of getting older, like assisted living or nursing home care. According to longtermcare.gov, as of 2010, the average cost of a private room in a nursing home was $6,965 and a semi-private room was $6,235. We all know how inflation works so that cost today is higher and the cost tomorrow will be significantly greater. The cost of an assisted living facility, was roughly half the cost of nursing home care at $3,293 for a one-bedroom unit.
There are a number of things that have to be considered with a population like this. Where we all live? Who will care for us? What will our quality of life be in our 70s? our 80s? our 90s? According to Nurse.com, there is a growing shortage of nurses in the US that is rising to potentially crisis levels. Contributing factors include the obviously aging population, an increase in chronic diseases and conditions as well as limited capacity in nursing education programs. Between RNs (Registered Nurses), LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses) and Personal Care Aids, an estimated 1.3 million more workers in these fields will be required by 2022 based on a US BLS survey completed in 2013. This represents an increase of over 20% from the current employment levels.
According to a story on MarketWatch this past April we are also moving towards a doctor shortage in the US. According to this article we could LOSE as many as 100,000 doctors by 2025 with 1/3 of this decline being in what is referred to as primary care physicians. There are even sections of the United States that are becoming known as primary-care deserts. These primary care physicians are the first line of defense in providing care with states like New York, North Carolina and Florida meeting less than 50% of the need for these physicians.
I’m not going to get into a political discussion about who is to blame and who is better equipped to ‘help’ the situation, but i will absolutely say that we are heading for a period of time that will have a series of shortages at the worst possible time. According to a number of studies as many as 90% of us want to be able to stay in our homes as we get older. This will create new challenges that we aren’t currently facing:
- will the care come to the people
- will people go to the care
- will there be care centers or districts designated for this surge of need
- what types of new jobs and people will be needed
There are so many questions that will need to be asked and I question whether or not there are enough people asking these questions for us all to be prepared when these things all come to a head. Fortunately there are some people that do see this need and are working hard to find solutions, but people will need to understand that the motive is not completely altruistic, there is a definite profit motive in their moves and that is something that people are just going to have to be comfortable with.