By TERRI BRYCE REEVES
The year 2030 marks a crucial demographic turning point in U.S. history
according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s report: National Population Projections. By 2030, all baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) will be over age 65. One in every five residents will be retirement age.
“The aging of baby boomers means that within just a couple decades, older
people are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history,” said Jonathan Vespa, U.S. Census Bureau demographer. “By 2035, there will be 78 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.7 million under the age of 18.”
The 2030s are predicted to be a transformative decade for the U.S. population. If trends continue, the population will expand at a slower pace, age significantly and become more racially and ethnically diverse.
Net international migration is projected to become the primary driver of population growth in the United States (as opposed to births) – another demographic first for the United States.
The graying of America will present many challenges for government agencies, caregivers, taxpayers, hospitals and other healthcare organizations.
Who will take care of this population whose sheer numbers could overwhelm
the healthcare system as chronic conditions (such as dementia and cancer) accumulate with age? What will the financial costs be?
Before we hit the panic button, let’s take a look at these babies born after
World War II.
Boomers are wealthy – well, some of
As a whole, baby boomers possess more than two-thirds of this country’s
disposable income. They control $46 trillion in wealth and are projected
to inherit $15 trillion in the next two decades, according to Forbes magazine.
Yet, about 45% of the boom generation report having no retirement savings at
They will likely live longer – and
more independently – than previous
Advances in medicine will have the potential to extend longevity and improve the ability of these older Americans to remain self-sufficient for a longer period of time. Remember, the baby boomers made health and fitness fads mainstream.
(Didn’t they invent jogging?) They got physical with aerobics, racquetball,
surfing, disco dancing and yoga.
While some fell off the fitness wagon in middle age, as a whole, they still tend
to be more proactive about their health through exercise and proper nutrition
than previous generations. This will undoubtedly pay dividends in future outcomes as this population ages.
Baby boomers are benefiting from
With access to information on the internet at their fingertips, baby boomers
are an informed and confident bunch, frequently googling medical issues to
learn what they can about potential diseases and treatments.
Other developing technologies will be
steadily on their side.
While we aren’t yet seeing Jetson-like flying cars, today’s older seniors are already benefiting from the use of wearable gadgets, voice recognition systems,
delivery services, transportation services, personal alarms and sensors that
track vital signs.
Self-driving cars may soon be a part of the everyday roadscape and robots
(in the form of humanoids or pets) are beginning to help look after grandma and
keep her in her own home by assisting with communication, medication
management and monitoring. And virtual appointments will allow those with mobility or transportation issues to consult with their medical practitioners
The future holds unheralded
Boomers are coming of old age at a good time. Medical treatments and drug
therapies should look much different by 2030, 2040 and 2050.
Already, advances in minimally-invasive and robotic techniques have made
surgeries safer with shorter and less painful recovery time.
Stem cell therapies are showing promise in curing diseases and repairing
We now can identify genes that cause disease which is leading to better
treatment outcomes. Cancer drugs have turned some kinds of once-fatal diseases
into chronic illnesses.
And, we are doing a better job of managing conditions such as high blood
pressure and diabetes more effectively.
Alzheimer’s disease, which takes a serious toll on caregivers and creates
a substantial financial burden on the healthcare system, has been tougher to
tackle. A new study projects that the disease will be responsible for 25 percent
of all Medicare spending by 2040.
However, our better understanding of the brain, improved imaging and detection techniques, and emerging drug and cognitive therapies could make prevention and treatment a reality someday.
Indeed, the so-called “Me Generation,” the one that said they’d never grow old, will do just that, but in a different way. And our guess is, they won’t go gently into that good night.