Tag Archives: demographics

Experts discuss coming shifts in quality of life, culture around aging

Blog photo credit: Image by NCVO via flickr.

Image by NCVO via flickr.

“Have we matched our healthspan to our life span?”

AgeWave.com founder and author Ken Dychtwald asked that question yesterday of a standing-room-only audience at the American Society on Aging Conference in San Diego. “Are we doing the right version of aging?”

Dychtwald moderated a panel discussion on the social, health, financial and cultural implications of our aging population which included Joseph Coughlin of the MIT Age Lab; Fenando Torres-Gil, director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging, UCLA School of Public Affairs; and Jo Ann Jenkens, chief operating officer of AARP. The speakers joined Dychtwald to offer some predictions on a very different looking future of aging than previous generations lived through.

“The new challenge of an aging society is not just living longer,” said Coughlin, “but how we will live better.” After getting some appreciative laughter when showing a slide of aging hippies, and commenting “These are the people your parents warned you about,” he turned serious and asked, “Do you think these folks are going to age as politely and nicely as their grandparents and great-grandparents did?” Continue reading

Shifting projections mean U.S. population is aging faster

New Census Bureau numbers forecast that there will be more older people in the United States than previously anticipated.

As Adele Hayutin of the Stanford Center on Longevity points out, the implications are big:

Some of the most important personal decisions that will be affected include choices about work, living arrangements, caregiving for older relatives and financial matters concerning retirement. Policymakers will need to consider how the faster pace of aging further threatens the financial viability of Social Security and Medicare.

The trend means that the financial burder of Social Security and Medicare will fall on a smaller “working-age population.”

Hayutin’s post explains the trends that account for the shift.


New and noteworthy tidbits on the aging and health care beat

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has published a new report that looks at Social Security’s role in keeping Americans out of poverty.  Poverty is closely linked with compromised access to medical care and lesser health status.   Regarding older adults, the Center explains:

“Almost 90 percent of people aged 65 and older receive some of their family income from Social Security.[2]   Without Social Security benefits, 43.6 percent of elderly Americans would have incomes below the official poverty line, all else being equal; with Social Security benefits, only 8.7 percent do.  These benefits lift some 14.5 million elderly Americans — including 8.7 million women — above the poverty line.

Social Security reduces elderly poverty dramatically in every state in the nation, as Figure 1 and Table 2 show.  Without Social Security, the poverty rate for those aged 65 and over would meet or exceed 40 percent in 41 states; with Social Security, it is less than 10 percent in the large majority of states.”

The Scan Foundation has published a new issue brief on who provides long-term care in the United States.  Among the findings:

  •  The vast majority of people who need long-term care – 87 percent – receive services from informal or unpaid caregivers.
  • 43.5 million Americans serve as informal caregivers to adults age 50 and older.  Two-thirds of these caregivers are female.
  • For people who require assistance with activities of daily living, the most common types are getting in and out of bed (40 percent), getting dressed (32 percent) and bathing and showering (26 percent).
  • For people who need help with so-called instrumental activities of daily living, the most common types offered by a caregiver are transportation (83 percent) and housework and grocery shopping (both at 75 percent).
  • 70 percent to 80 percent of paid long-term care services are provided by direct care workers – certified nursing assistants, personal care aides, and home health aides.

AARP and New York’s United Hospital Fund document the extent to which family caregivers deal with complex medical needs of older relatives in a new report, Home Alone:  Family Caregivers Providing Complex Chronic Care.  It’s based on an online survey of more than 1,600 family caregivers.   Important findings include:

“Almost half (46 percent) of family caregivers performed medical/nursing tasks for care recipients with multiple chronic physical and cognitive conditions.

“These tasks include managing multiple medications, helping with assistive devices for mobility, preparing food for special diets, providing wound care, using monitors, managing incontinence, and operating specialized medical equipment.

“Family caregivers reported very few home visits by health care professionals. Sixty-nine percent of the care recipients did not have any home visits by health care professionals. Of those who did have home visits, roughly seven in ten were visited by a nurse.

“Most family caregivers who provided help with five or more medical/nursing tasks believed they were helping their family member avoid institutionalization. Those who provided these tasks and reported they had training were more likely to say they were able to help their family member avoid nursing home placement.

“These significant relationships are important on both the individual and public policy levels.”

AARP’s Public Policy Institute also  has published a new issue brief that looks at the impact of family caregiving on work.  Of note:

“An estimated 61 percent of family caregivers of adults age 50 and older are currently employed either full-time (50 percent) or part-time (11 percent).”

“Forty-two percent of U.S. workers have provided care for an aging relative or friend in the past five years. About half (49 percent) of the workforce expects to be providing eldercare in the coming five years.”

“In 2011, 17 percent of workers in the United States provided eldercare,5-7 up from 13 percent in 1999.”

If you’ve seen other reports or issue briefs on aging that deserve wide circulation, drop a line below and let us know.

Shifts in aging populations affect communities; check data for your state

Which region of the country is aging most rapidly? It’s New England, where all six states appear on the list of the top 10 oldest states in the nation, ranked by the median age of the population in 2010.

Oldest States in the U.S. Median Age
Maine** 42.7 years
Vermont** 41.5 years
New Hampshire ** 41.3 years
West Virginia 41.2 years
Florida 40.7 years
Pennsylvania 40.2 years
Montana 40.1 years
Connecticut** 40.0 years
Rhode Island** 39.6 years
Massachusetts** 39.1 years
** New England state

By contrast, the median age stands at 37.2 nationally and at 29.2 years in the youngest state, Utah.

I compiled this list after looking at a recent item on seacoastonline.com and deciding to run the numbers myself at the Census Bureau website. Although my data differs slightly from the information included in that story, the findings are essentially the same.

(Seacoastonline.com is a Web news site sponsored by the Portsmouth Herald, Exeter News-Letter, and Hampton Union, all of New Hampshire, and York County Coast Star and York Weekly, of Maine.)

“The biggest factors are the low birth rate here and the out-migration of young families looking for opportunities,” said Jim Breece, an economist at the University of Maine, quoted in the seacoastoneline.com report.

Breece’s observation is important: States where economic opportunities are few and far between are more likely to experience a departure of younger adults, leaving behind an older population and an altered economic climate.

The extent of immigration can also affect the age distribution of a state’s population insofar as many immigrants tend to be younger adults and families. Immigration is more common in other regions of the country than it is in New England.

Core Topics
Health Reform
Other Topics

Still another factor in a state’s age is its appeal to retirees. New England draws significant numbers of people who have finished working and are interested in moving to locations with historic communities, good health care, educational opportunities and cultural amenities.

On the other end of the age spectrum, the population of children is shrinking in several states; across New England, there were 200,000 fewer children in 2010 than a decade earlier.

“There isn’t enough affordable housing for young adults in the seacoast area,” Peter Francese, a Maine demographer, told seascoastonline. “Another reason is individual towns in New England do not like or want children because most property taxes go towards education.”

What’s the situation in your state? Has the median age of the population changed significantly over the past five or 10 years? If so, which factors are fueling the trend, according to local demographers?
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Baby boomers’ votes have potential to influence many political issues

Governing magazine has joined the ranks of publications turning a spotlight on the aging of America.

Core Topics
Health Reform
Other Topics

Especially worth reading is its just-published story on the politics of greying baby boomers. What could be more timely in this election season?

Some highlights of this nuanced, well-reported piece by Rob Gurwitt:

“More than half the nation’s voting-age population is now over 45 – the first time that’s ever happened. As the immense bulge of the baby boom ages, politics in every state, county, city and town will reflect its influence. Yet what’s most interesting about this is that no one really knows how.”

…”‘Really, the senior vote is something of a myth,’ says Frederick Lynch, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and author of One Nation Under AARP: The Fight Over Medicare, Social Security, And America’s Future. ‘It breaks apart by education, class, ethnicity and family structure. And among pre-seniors, you’ve got elite boomers who got good degrees, bought into globalization and were able to adjust to a changing economy, versus the white working class, which is mostly boomers who have been completely dislocated by cheap immigrant labor and their jobs sent overseas. In numbers, the senior and pre-senior bloc is a sleeping giant, but the question is will it awaken and mobilize?'”

…”There is no shortage of potential flash points that could see state and local voters polarize along age-related lines. Taxation, schools, long-term care, Medicaid, urban design, transportation – all carry the potential for conflict. Even ethnicity could be a sensitive topic. Pew’s research suggests that boomers are generally less tolerant of the increasingly diverse, multi-ethnic character of the U.S. than the cohorts that follow them – though they are more accepting than their elders.”

What a rich vein of reporting lies here for reporters willing to go out and ask baby boomers about their views on these and other topics.

Other stories in the new Governing series look at Continue reading