In countries all over the world, the percentage of elderly people is growing at a more rapid rate compared to other age groups. This is sometimes called the “Silver Tsunami”, though not everyone is completely comfortable with this term (see the NPR report http://www.npr.org/2014/05/19/313133555/silver-tsunami-and-other-terms-that-can-irk-the-over-65-set). In their minds, tsunamis strike without warning and suck everything out to sea, as if our elders are going to suck up all of our resources. True, we know this demographic shift is happening, so we have plenty of warning. But if you think about the number of people who will need some sort of assistance as they age and how expensive medical care is in this country, unless we think carefully and plan appropriately, we are going to have a very large bill due. According to a report from the National Center for Policy Analysis (http://healthblog.ncpa.org/1-percent-of-people-account-for-23-percent-of-medical-spending/), 1% of people needing medical care account for 23% of all medical spending. 5% account for 50%. Though some of us are living longer and healthier lives, not all of us are, and eventually we will all need medical care as we age. 92% of all older Americans have at least 1 chronic disease, 77% have at least 2. Many have 4 or more. For more on this, see https://www.ncoa.org/news/resources-for-reporters/get-the-facts/healthy-aging-facts/. These chronic conditions need medical care and as the number of people needing medical care goes up, so will the overall expenditures.
In the US, the demographic shift is happening because of the Baby Boom generation, which I am the tail end of. Though many people have probably heard something on the news about it, probably many don’t have a good idea of the actual numbers.
The following set of statistics were compiled by Allen S. Teel, MD and published in his 2011 book Alone and Invisible No More.
- In 2008, 35 million Americans were over age 65.
- By 2020, this figure will grow to 55 million.
- By 2030, 85 million Americans will be over 65.
- The fastest growing segment of the population is those over 85.
- Over 4 million are over 85 now.
- By 2050 an estimated 21 million will be over 85.
- There will be 1 million Americans over age 100 by 2050.
- In 1943, the United States had 43 working people for each retiree. By 2015 it will be 2.
10,000 are turning 65 each day in the US (http://www.pewresearch.org/daily-number/baby-boomers-retire/). Those 85 million Americans 65 and older listed above will account for 20% of the US population and will stabilize as a percentage of the population following that. You can see more details in this US Census Bureau report: https://www.census.gov/prod/2014pubs/p25-1140.pdf