In 10 years, all Baby Boomers will be 65 or older. It is estimated that there are 73 million Baby Boomers in the U.S., and thanks to better healthcare extending lives and record low birth rates, older adults are projected to outnumber young people by 2034.
To meet the demand for care for this population, experts have warned that social and policy changes must occur soon.
Dubbed “the 2030 problem,” this challenge involves obtaining the needed resources and service systems to care for Baby Boomers. Part of the problem? Baby Boomers currently account for most of the unpaid family caregivers and experts are concerned about who will care for Boomers once they become unable to care for themselves.
James Knickman and Emily Snell write, “The real challenges of caring for the elderly in 2030 will involve: (1) making sure society develops payment and insurance systems for long-term care that work better than existing ones, (2) taking advantage of advances in medicine and behavioral health to keep the elderly as healthy and active as possible, (3) changing the way society organizes community services so that care is more accessible, and (4) altering the cultural view of aging to make sure all ages are integrated into the fabric of community life. To meet the long-term care needs of Baby Boomers, social and public policy changes must begin soon. Meeting the financial and social service burdens of growing numbers of elders will not be a daunting task if necessary changes are made now rather than when Baby Boomers actually need long-term care.”
In fact, Time Magazine reports that caring for America’s elders is “the single most expensive domestic priority on the horizon, breaking the projected budgets of both Medicare and Medicaid, all 50 states and most of the middle class, and the truth is, no one is truly prepared for what is to come.”
Because there is no federal plan in place, states have to take the lead on how they will handle the 2030 problem. Some states are working on making long-term care insurance more affordable, however, it’s important to note that long-term care insurance comes with drawbacks.
What Else is Being Done
Though Congress has not yet acted to confront the crisis, here’s what other states are doing to prepare. In Washington state, Reps. Drew MacEwen and Laurie Jinkins introduced a bill that would impose a small employee tax that would create a fund to help older adults pay for care. The bill’s authors estimate that it would save the state $4 billion by 2052 and allow older adults to age in place with their families instead of going to a facility.
Hawaii approved a measure in 2017 that provides up to $70 per day to support family caregivers who also work outside the home.
Federal, state, local and tribal lawmakers will use information from the 2020 census to decide how to spend funds that are critical to public services that benefit those 65 and older. This is especially important for money that’s used for Medicare part B, senior centers and job training programs.
“The census is really important to us in the aging community,” said John Haaga of the National Institute on Aging in Washington, D.C. “It’s our only way to figure out how things are different across the country, what areas are aging faster, where elderly disabled people live, or where older people are concentrated, like Appalachia or West Virginia, because young people are leaving for the cities.”