Help! Who Will Care for Baby Boomers When They Need It?


Many hands may not really make light work, but at least they help. The abundance of baby boomers means many can care for their aging parents. But a sobering report released today by the AARP Public Policy Institute shows that within the next 20 years, when boomers are in their 80s and need help of their own, there won't be enough hands to go around.

Consider these findings: In 2010, there were 7.2 potential caregivers (ages 45-64 or the average age of caregivers) for every person age 80-plus. In 2030, that caregiver ratio will drop to 4 to 1 and by 2050, when all boomers will be in late life, the ratio becomes less than 3 to 1. In 2050, there will be three times as many people age 80-plus as there are today.

Press Release: You Take Care of Mom, But Who Will Take Care of You?

According to Lynn Feinberg, a coauthor of the AARP report, "this means that relying on only your family to provide long-term care may be unrealistic in the future. As a nation we need to think about changes to long-term care that need to begin now, not when the boomers actually need support and care beginning in just 13 years."

A shortage of family caregivers means higher costs for society. One reason people are able to stay in their home or community as they age is because they have help from family members, partners and close friends. Without that help and strong support systems, they are more likely to wind up in institutions such as nursing homes.

That's problematic because, not only do most people want to stay in their own homes, but also doing so saves the government billions of dollars annually in Medicaid costs that would otherwise pay for institutional care.

Other report findings:

  •  From 1990-2010, the 80-plus population increased by 62%, while the number of those ages 45-64, considered potential caregivers, grew faster or by 77%. Boomers were in their prime caregiving years.
  • Between 2010-2030, the 45-64 year-old population (peak caregiving years) will increase by just 1%, while the age 80-plus demographic is expected to swell by 79%.
  • From 2030-2040, the 80-plus population is projected to increase by 44%; on the other hand, those age 45-64 will increase by only 10%.
  • In 2010, 70.5% of those age 80-plus had some disability, 55.8% had a severe disability and 30.2% needed help with daily living tasks, including bathing, dressing, toileting, preparing meals, using the telephone and paying bills.

Sally Abrahms writes about baby boomers and aging with a focus on caregiving, housing and work. Follow her on Twitter!

Photo Credit:  AARP Public Policy Institute


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