Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Aging: Past; Present; Future (Part 2)

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!


Anonymous said...

Paul, You know this "A recent study of census data concludes that new immigrants were critical to the nation’s economic growth in the past decade, accounting for half of the new wage earners who joined the labor force in those years." Maybe that's the only way to bring in the "personnel" you describe we need?

David L said...

If you read the latest Study by the Brookings Institute entitled America's Regional Demographics in the "00s Decade:The Role of Seniors, Boomers and New Minorities. You will see that the migration patterns for immigrants is very different from where the broad base of elderly will be aging in place. Why would anyone go to an area to earn a minimum wage as a private caregiver when the ability to pay them privately is bleak as most elderly cannot afford private serve and/or Assisted Living. Aging in Place is a huge issue and Pauls comments about replacing people is correct. 76 millions Boomers retire and are replaced by 42 million GenXer's. A 34 million shortfall for openers before considering Gen X caregiving issues for Boomer parents and grand parents. Plus, their own chronic illness from poor lifestyle and chronic illness, obesity, diabetes.
There is no way to bring "in" the third world personnel and anyone who thinks there are magic bullets or a "pony under the tree" for this problem is delusional.

Paul Mattessich said...

Thanks, David, for your stark statement of the numbers. Everyone needs to realize that this is a major trend. It's not a question of "if" there will be a shortage of replacements; it's only a question of "when" that shortage will become severe.

david levy said...

I am a non practicing attorney who has been in the family caregiver support business for more than 20 years. I am one of the few certified caregiver educator trainers and at my tender age of 63 am working on my PhD in Gerontology. I thought I knew and heard it all from the caregiving side of things, but when the reality of gerontology and the true issues of aging (not the myths and stereotypes that have gotten us to where we are now) are factored in it is a brutal eye opener. I do a lot of writing and research on the subject of caregiving, aging in place, caregiver presenteeism in the workplace, ethical caregiving issues and other not so pedestrian aspects of a mass geriatric society. If I can be of help with subject material or whatever feel free to contact me at

One of the best remarks about demographics that I constantly use and it is so true with aging. "Demographics are just history waiting to happen."

Really enjoy your site.