Some facts appear below for our consideration. The last fact has implications that perhaps deserve most attention.
1. Life expectancy has increased, and will continue to do so, under present conditions. "60 is the new 30", according to our State Demographer. As I mentioned previously, this will result in "more of everything" - more people who can participate longer in community and family life, more people who will need assistance later in their lives. Elderly people living alone and "empty nesters" will be the most rapidly growing households in Ramsey (one of Minnesota's most urbanized counties). We can plan for this change, or we can let it happen to us.
2. A small percentage of Baby Boomers possess a large amount of the wealth held by that generation. In the United States, the top 25% of Boomers have 86% of the wealth. What implications does this have for those Boomers who are not among the wealthy? What does it mean in terms of the need/demand for services as the Boomer cohorts age?
3. Younger age groups are diverse racially; older age groups are almost entirely white.
4. The Baby Boom - people who are now roughly in their forties and fifties - is a huge generation. Being huge is not necessarily noteworthy, according to the State Demographer. What is unique is that the Baby Boom generation is preceded and followed by much smaller generations.
Item 4 should concern us: Who will fill the vacancies when Baby Boomers leave their current employment in business, nonprofit organizations, and government? Business of all types will look long and hard to find replacements; in some cases, they might not find them. A recent article on the trucking industry indicated that trucking companies predict a shortage of literally thousands of drivers. One of their creative responses is to encourage more couples, including retirees, to consider truck driving together as a new lifestyle.
What will we do in the nonprofit sector, and specifically the caregiving sector, to creatively develop the capacity to provide care to large numbers of aged folks? Who will be available to care for the aging Boomers, given the substantial decline that will occur in the number of people in the generation following the Boomers? Projections indicate that, in the next 10 years, Minnesota will need 46% more healthcare practitioners and technicians to cover growth in demand and replacements. From where will they come, and at what expense?
Can we expect to handle the challenge of caring the for an increasing elderly population by tinkering in small ways with the current system of formal and informal care, or by hoping that some new source of funds will make everything work? I don't think so. We will need new approaches to bring in the personnel needed for caregiving; we will need to use technology in highly productive ways.
More thoughts on this in a future blog.
If you have an interest in the study presented at the mini-conference, or in the presentation by the State Demographer, please have a look!