Older adult demographic trends have often been called “The Silver Tsunami,” because, as baby boomers move into retirement and people live longer lives, we will see the largest ratio of retired people in history. We are watching the creation of “The Silver Tsunami.”
Older adult demographic trend watchers tell us that older adults are the fastest growing age cohort in the U.S. And, within the group of older adults, those aged 80 and older are the fastest growing subgroup (Pew Research).
Caregiving for older adults, or elder care, is one of the biggest challenges facing baby boomers, with an anticipated cumulative cost of over $3 trillion dollars, according to Daily Finance. Caring for elderly parents is expected to bankrupt 30% of adult children in the U.S. (The New York Times).
This growth in the older adult population is a very significant demographic trend that will have serious repercussions for decades to come – like a tsunami.
People are living longer, according to older adult demographic trends. They are becoming frail and in need of care for more years than was the case 10 or 20 years ago. Many states are reporting an increased incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia among older adults, both in terms of raw numbers and as a ratio to the overall population.
The issues of elder care are receiving a growing amount of press coverage, including a series on ABC World News, and articles in major newspapers and magazines. Amazon.com has over 33,000 books with “older adults” in the title, and over 10,000 books that deal with Alzheimer’s disease.
An increasing proportion of middle aged adults find themselves in a position where they need to provide some level of care for a frail elderly parent who suffers from Alzheimer’s. It is interesting to note that the vast majority of caregivers are women in their middle years, who may also be caring for teenagers or young adults in college. In fact, almost 75% of caregivers are middle aged women who spend 18 hours a week caring for their mothers. They are the “sandwich generation,” caught in between the needs of their children and their parents. The baby boomers of today are likely to spend more years caring for a parent than for their children (“Caregiving to Aging Parents,” by Durant and Christian, Forum on Public Policy). And pressures are increasing as the number of frail elderly continues to grow.
The financial and psychological costs of caregiving can be overwhelming at times. It is important for us to realize five things:
- This demographic trend of the growing older adult population is continuing to grow, and will not peak for many years.
- Older adults provide incredible resources for many communities, through civic engagement, volunteering and mentoring and are a real asset. The Living Treasures program recognizes many of these wonderful elders in the Southwest.
- Adult children need information, resources, help and support as they deal with the needs of frail parents with dementia.
- Current community resources are not adequate to the task, and more funding is needed in order to maintain services to this fast growing population.
- Many agencies can develop sliding fee scale services, which would allow them to expand their program offerings and diversify their budgets, receiving revenue from older adults that can pay, to help subsidize services for those with limited incomes.
- We need policy changes at state and federal levels that will allow for more support for core community services and additional revenue streams including third party payor options. In many states, implementation of the Affordable Care Act may increase community-based options, but only if those are developed through state policy and priorities developed by the Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) empowered to implement health care reform.
I care passionately about how Alzheimer’s affects our families, and the many people currently struggling to care for an elderly parent. My brothers and I managed caregiving for mother for many years. And, I was thankful many times that I have a strong background in health, social services and aging and had a good sense about community resources and gaps.
For years, my consulting work has allowed me to help communities understand the impact and cost of caregiving, and the need to create policies to support needed care. As a consultant, I have been able to guide communities as they assess community need and work to improve the services available to older adults and their families.
We will need to mobilize all of our resources to understand how this demographic trend will play out in our communities: How the Silver Tsunami will shake our world. We need to develop and fund strategies that will ensure needed services for older adults, and resources for families struggling with Alzheimer’ s disease and dementia.Anne Hays Egan, Principal
New Ventures Consulting
EZineArticles Expert Author Helpful Links:
Core Community Resources for Older Adults