NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Looming Shortage Of Caregivers For The Elderly

December 13, 2000

Some gerontologists are issuing dire warnings that the point is approaching when there will not be enough able people around to care for the mounting numbers of elderly people. In an era of fragmented families, millions of baby boomers might be left alone when they are old and frail.

  • There are 78 million baby boomers, and the number of people ages 65 to 74 will grow 107 percent by 2030, according to the Census Bureau.
  • Boomers have had fewer children than their parents and almost one-fifth of women in their early 40s have no children at all to care for them in their later years.
  • Boomers are living six to 15 years longer than their parents, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
  • Boomers have chosen to divorce, to cohabit, to remarry and create stepfamilies, to remain single, to marry and not have children -- thus weakening the traditional concept of families, as well as feelings of obligation toward elderly parents.

People who are now age 70 to 85 have an average of 2.5 children to care for them. But that age group in 2030 will have an average of only 1.5 children.

Insurance policies that cover long-term elder care are expensive and experts recommend that only those whose gross income exceeds 7 percent of the cost of premiums buy such policies. But they should remember that premiums can escalate and if their policy lapses, they lose both their investment and any benefits.

Sources: Karen S. Peterson, "Many Boomers May Face Old Age All Alone," and Julie Appleby, "Ensuring Elder Care Is Costly," both in USA Today, December 13, 2000.


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