Changing Face of Aging and Implications for Family Caregivers

We have heard it time and time again – the silver tsunami has hit the shore!

The number of people who are over 65 has hit an all-time high, not just in the United States but globally. They are not just aging but our seniors are changing in many ways.

The latest Profile of Older Americans bears that out.

This profile is compiled by the Administration on Aging, the Administration for Community Living, and the US Department of Health and Human Services.

It uses the latest information available from sources such as the US Census Bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The more we learn about our seniors, their needs and how we can all best take action to create opportunities to meet those needs, the better off we will be together.

2014 Report Highlights

Here is an overview of the report findings and statistics of our changing senior population. Some of these statistics are a bit shocking and should help guide us to programs that can help our seniors.

  • The number of those over 65 has increased by 8.8 million people since 2003 to top out over 44.7 million in 2013.
  • Those people who are 45-64 and will be over 65 in the next two decades increased by 20.7% during that time period.
  • One in every seven citizens is considered an older American.
  • The average life expectancy has increased by 19.3 years.
  • In 2013 there were 67,347 people 100 or more years old!
  • 28% of non-institutionalized older adults lived ALONE!
  • Almost half of women over 75 live alone.
  • 536,000 grandparents in 2013 were primary caregivers for their grandchildren who lived with them – Yikes!
  • The major source of income for older people in 2012 was Social Security. Other sources include assets, pensions, and earnings.
  • Over 4.2 Million older adults were living below the poverty level in 2013!

Acting on Statistics

What do these startling statistics tell us? What do we need to do as family caregivers and advocates of our senior population?

What discussions need to be taking place in the government, organizations and agencies to ensure that programs that will meet the needs of our seniors in a wide range of ways not just healthcare?

  • What we can see from this data is that the number of people getting older is growing and even those people are older, as evidenced by the numbers of centenarians. With an increasing life expectancy, that trend is expected to continue. The only thing that can put a halt to increasing life expectancy is the number of obese individuals.
  • More seniors will need more caregivers, more healthcare professionals, more public transportation, more access to affordable housing, more long term care healthcare services, better access to healthy affordable food and be able to live on little or a fixed income. Finances will become a major concern as planning for an extended amount of time in retirement may not be happening and their pensions or investments might not be growing with the cost of living.
  • Another interesting note is that from 1980 to 2014 the number of divorces or separated couples increased from 5.3 to 14%. This could have consequences for family caregiving, as parents may be living in different locations – maybe even at a distance – making it harder for family caregivers to meet the needs of parents and grandparents when families are divided.
  • As the number of older people become primary caregivers for their grandchildren, what will happen to not only the senior but the young child if emergency strikes? Who will be there to care for the older adult and child when there may be no other adult available? Will there be support services for these people?
  • How will states fund services such as Medicaid for their growing senior populations? Many states are seeing marked increases in the population of older adults compared to other states. Over half of the people over 65 live in only 13 states. 19% of older citizens live outside of metropolitan areas meaning the services need to reach them.
  • With so many seniors below the poverty level, how will they pay for shelter, food, medications and healthcare? Add to those people the 2.5 million seniors termed “near poor,” who were near but just above the poverty level and don’t qualify for some assistance programs? These may be the most at risk.
  • Many older Americans over 65, 8.4 million, continue to be employed or actively seek work. This is 5% of the labor force. Older adults are more educated than in years past with the numbers of those completing high school going from 28-84%. Perhaps these more educated people understand the need to stay active, continue to earn money and gain a sense of self-worth from working.
  • Despite the fact that most older people have at least one chronic medical condition and many have more than one, 43% say they are in very good or excellent health.
    • 71% reported getting a flu shot in 2014 and 61% said they had a pneumococcal vaccine.
    • 29% are obese according to their Body Mass Index (BMI).
    • They see the doctor regularly and many stayed overnight at the hospital at least once during the year.
    • They paid out of pocket health costs of an average $5,069 in 2013 compared to younger adults who only spent $3,631.
    • The largest portion of that amount was spent on insurance coverage, then medical services, and next medications.
    • The majority, 93%, are covered by Medicare and 54% have some private health insurance.

Will they be able to continue to afford these healthcare costs especially with limited income or those who are below or near the poverty level? Will they get the medical care they need when unable to pay? Will their state Medicaid be able to fill the gap?

  • We know limitations in functional status increase with age and are compounded by multiple chronic medical conditions. Requiring assistance with activities of daily living is expected to increase. Family caregivers are assisting with these daily tasks while juggling their own family life. Who will help them if there are no family caregivers or there is no money for home care services? Will they be forced to become institutionalized? Will there be enough places for them to go?

Family caregivers and truly our nation will be asked to care for senior loved ones. There will be challenges ahead for everyone. We are all facing the same foe and no one has the answers or many solutions at this point. We need to continue to advocate together for the welfare of our seniors who will soon be us!

Not just the risks but the rewards of caregiving will be great too!

Leave a Comment