Americans are getting older – in fact, way older. We are on our way to a profound shift in our population; one which will have costly impacts on our nation. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2030, when all of the nation’s 76 million surviving baby boomers will be 65 and older, nearly one in five U.S. residents will be 65 and older. This age group is projected to double by 2050, increasing to 88.5 million from the 38.7 million we currently have in 2008. The Census Bureau projects that the 85 and older population growth will be even bigger, tripling from 5.4 million in 2008 to 19 million in 2050.
On the one hand it is pretty clear that there will soon be a lot of older Americans. So the next question is, how many of them will require assistance, and what type? Lest you think the impact will be small, consider this comment from the Dartmouth geriatrician, Dr. Dennis McCullough: “…nine out of ten people who live into their 80′s will wind up unable to take care of themselves, either because of frailty or dementia.” According to Dr. McCullough, “Everyone thinks they will be the lucky one, but we can’t go along with that myth.”
The International Longevity Center’s Caregiving Project for Older Americans is very concerned that older Americans are not doing enough planning now. The Center estimates that about 1.4 million older Americans currently live in nursing homes, nearly 6 million receive care at home, and significant numbers go completely without needed help. They report that “…the growing disparity between the demand and supply of care giving services will only worsen with the aging of baby boomers in this country.”
The National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information says that “…at least 70 percent of people over age 65 will require some long-term care services at some point in their lives, and over 40 percent will need care in a nursing home for some period of time.”The Clearinghouse cautions that contrary to most people’s opinions, “Medicare and private health insurance programs do not pay for the majority of long-term care services that most people need – help with personal care such as dressing or using the bathroom independently.”
It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out that the coming demographic tsunami will overwhelm our assisted living, independent living, home care, and nursing homes infrastructures. Currently most assisted living facilities in this country report occupancy rates at 90% or higher. The New York Times reported recently that after several years of overbuilding followed by soft markets, “The National Investment Center found fewer than 23,000 units under construction in the 100 biggest metropolitan areas.” If you take an arbitrary average about 1.5 persons per unit, our future residential shortfall looks to be severe.
In another New York Times article Kathryn A. Sweeney, a managing director for United States senior housing for GPT Group, an Australian real estate company, was quoted in a similar vein about the eventual housing shortage: “If you plan to be a resident, you need to be saving your pennies now,” she said.”
About the Author: John Brady is publisher of www.Topeldercares.com. Visitors to that site will find a directory of eldercare facilities, a Forum, and helpful articles on dealing with eldercare.