"What? Me worry?" Those famous words of Mad Magazine's fictitious Alfred E. Neuman seem to sum up the attitude Americans have about whether aging is a problem in this country. A just-released Pew Research Center global aging report asked residents of 21 countries if they thought the burgeoning number of older people was a "major problem" for their country and for themselves.
In fact, the United States ranked No. 19, or two places from the lowest. Japanese and South Koreans, who expect the majority of their populations to be older than 50 by 2050, said they were the most concerned. Not worrying about the issue - call it burying your head in the sand - is likely to be shortsighted. In 2010, 13.1 percent of the American population was age 65 and older; in 2050, that figure will be 21.4 percent. And, by 2050, there will be more Americans 65+ than children younger than age 15.
Interesting, too, are findings from Pew's global aging report showing that the United States is one of the few surveyed countries where the majority believes that individuals are primarily responsible for their own well-being when they're older.
Do Americans need an attitude adjustment? There are enormous implications for all sectors of society, including caregivers. That shift in U.S. demographics will only intensify the psychological, physical and financial costs borne by future family caregivers and others.
An AARP report released last August underscores the challenge older people in this country will face when it comes to elder care. The AARP Public Policy Institute report predicts that the ratio of potential family caregivers for people over age 80 will be less than 3 to 1 in 2050 versus today's seven caregivers for every person age 80+.
The answer, it seems, to "What? Me worry?" is "you bet."
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