The median age of most of the country is increasing, but what does this mean? The population of the U.S. is beginning to age and this brings about a lot of changes. The baby boomer generation can help us to better understand what types of changes we might expect.
What we will Cover in this Article
- Fast Facts on the Baby Boomer Generation
- Who are the Baby Boomers?
- The Baby Boomer Healthcare Crisis
- What Does This Mean for our Healthcare System?
- What to Expect from Baby Boomers and Healthcare
- Baby Boomers and Medicare
- What Can I do to Help Baby Boomers in an Aging Population?
- Taking Care of an Aging Baby Boomer
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Fast Facts on the Baby Boomer Generation
We often hear a lot about the “baby boomers,” but who exactly are they?
- Baby boomers were born roughly between 1954-1964.
- This generation accounts for 74.1 million people.
- There was a steep increase in births during this decade.
- One theory suggests that national celebration over the end of WWII generated millions of new births.
Although this intense population growth can be seen as a good thing for a number of reasons, there are some problems that come with this sudden spike in the population.
Namely, what happens when all of those people start getting old?
There are a lot of problems that come into play with aging populations such as:
- There’s an increase in need for healthcare or nursing centers.
- Longer life expectancies mean increased healthcare costs.
- Greater need for long-term care.
- Increased need for behavioral healthcare.
- Making community healthcare more accessible to seniors.
- Indoctrinating all ages into the fabric of communities.
Who are the Baby Boomers?
While it’s important not to label all baby boomers according to generalizations, our society accepts certain identifying qualities over the baby boomer generation such as:
- They tend to indulge in things they enjoy more than past generations.
- They’ve become used to enjoying a flourishing economy.
- They are known as an affluent generation that works hard and is very conscientious about finances.
- They are a proud generation, one that may see some undue shame in switching over to a government-operated healthcare system.
Shame may make some members more inclined to try to stick out that commercial care or even fail to take advantage of the opportunities Medicare has to offer before they’ve crossed a critical point.
Statistically speaking, baby boomers are a rather unhealthy generation of people. Although they do statistically live much longer than their predecessors, they do appear to suffer from certain diseases and afflictions including:
- Multiple Sclerosis
The frequency of these conditions means that they have more medical expenses than the previous generation of seniors and will need healthcare for a longer duration.
Medicare is designed to limit the costs of medical treatment and offer everyone a fair shot at staying healthy.
However, those who suffer from severe or chronic conditions really hike up the costs of Medicare. While it is affordable and available to those suffering from such conditions, the financial strain on the system could be disastrous for Medicare.
As a result, the cost of Medicare increases for everyone (or the younger generations will see a sharp increase in their taxes). While Medicare offers an amazing opportunity to help the aging baby boomers, it isn’t the sole response that our country can rely on for the long-term.
The Baby Boomer Healthcare Crisis
Even before the Baby Boomer crisis came into play, the American healthcare system had many challenges. Compared to other industrialized nations, the United States is known for not being efficient.
Additionally, our nation suffers from a shortage of medical staff which leaves our healthcare system ill-equipped to deal with the rise in elderly patients due to the aging of the baby boomer generation.
High medical costs, coupled with the sincere lack of medical professionals, leads to a terribly failing system that is cracking under the pressure.
Unfortunately, the worst has yet to come. By 2029, the last round of baby boomers will officially hit the 65+ group and effectively be retirement age.
What Does This Mean for our Healthcare System?
Our national healthcare plans have not adapted according to the changing needs of our population. The vast numbers of the baby boomer population potentially stand to force some radical changes in the current healthcare systems.
What to Expect from Baby Boomers and Healthcare
We might expect to see some innovative changes in response to a rising elderly population. Although we cannot know exactly how everything will change, we are beginning to recognize some new patterns that may set the stage for a new and improved healthcare system.
For one thing, we can expect to see a huge portion of the baby boomer population switching from commercial plans over to Medicare. This is namely due to the state of our economy and availability of commercial plans that a majority of elderly people will soon qualify for.
While some people opine that commercial plans offer better quality of care, they’re often much more expensive and may include some unwelcome restrictions.
Fortunately, the Affordable Healthcare Act works in the favor of aging Americans as the new law prevents insurance carriers from excluding pre-existing conditions.
The volatility of healthcare could take us back to a system where health insurance carriers could once again increase premiums for people with pre-existing medical conditions or deny their care altogether.
In the past, insurance carriers have limited or excluded such conditions as:
Preexisting Medical Conditions
• Asthma and other respiratory problems
• Heart condition (heart murmur, have had a heart attack, and other cardiac-related problems.)
• low blood pressure
• high blood pressure
• high cholesterol levels
• joint and bone conditions
• gastrointestinal conditions (stomach problems)
• any history of cancer
Statistically speaking, these are all medical conditions that seniors are statistically much more likely to suffer from.
Seniors who live on fixed incomes often find it difficult to meet healthcare costs. Many baby boomers are finding it harder to retire and make ends meet.
As a result, seniors are moving their healthcare plans to Medicare at the earliest possible time.
Medicare is an affordable, government-provided option for seniors over the age of 65 and certain other disabled persons.
It does cover a wide range of treatments and medications. Although it does not cover everything (and certainly does not cover as much as some more expensive commercial plans might) it is much better than nothing!
Baby Boomers and Medicare
The shift of rise of Medicare-eligible seniors will bring some additional funds into the programs. More importantly, the Medicare system will need to adapt to compensate for the influx of new enrollees.
The faculties behind Medicare have already been preparing for this intense change. Instead of trying to continue the systems they have held up, they’re experimenting with new models such as:
- Patient-centered medical homes.
- Quality-linked reimbursement.
These programs may be the answer to all of the concerns over how we will have to handle baby boomers.
While the plans are well thought-out and aimed to provide the aging generation with the help and support that they need to lead happy, healthy lives, there are a number of obstacles to face along the road to success.
Some new obstacles my result because of:
- Changes in the Presidency
- Political battles in Congress
- Lack of federal funds
What Can I do to Help Baby Boomers in an Aging Population?
You may wonder what you as an aging baby boomer or caretaker can do to play your part and take a little bit of strain off the system. The obvious answer is for baby boomers to improve their health and lifestyles.
Of course, diseases such as cancer or many chronic conditions are often unpredictable and unavoidable, baby boomers may find helpful treatments for most other conditions.
Taking Care of an Aging Baby Boomer
Three common diseases of baby boomers are all treatable. They are:
- Cholesterol imbalances
These three conditions are also preventable diseases.
There are several different causes that contribute to whether or not someone will come down with one of these diagnoses. While genetics naturally can play a big role in this, there is a lot still within a person’s control.
The biggest two factors in maintaining optimal health are:
Eating a balanced diet that limits your artificial sugar intake can also help substantially.
Watch out for some of those foods with secret sugars!
Foods Secretly High in Sugar
- Fruit Juices
- Fruit Snacks
- Fast Food
- Sports drinks
- Flavored Coffees
- Canned soup
- Canned fruit
- Breakfast cereal
- Maple syrup
- BBQ sauce
- Bran muffins
- Chocolate milk
- Fruit smoothie
- Iced tea
- TV dinners
- Low-fat yogurt
- Apple sauce
These foods have a large amount of sugar in them that can spell serious health concerns for someone who is vulnerable to a diabetes diagnosis. A medical professional or dietician may help by prescribing a balanced diet.
In addition to seniors watching their diets, it’s important for them to stay active. Seniors don’t need to run a marathon, but they should make small changes that get them moving and improve their health.
Here are some activities to help get them moving:
- Take a short walk around the neighborhood
- Dancing while socializing
- Stretching exercises
Seniors might find other small changes make a big difference. Just 30 minutes a day is all they need.
We can hope that the future of our nation’s healthcare will bring good news of healthcare services for seniors with services that are affordable and accessible in the future.
In the meantime, it’s important for the baby boomer generation to indulge in the types of activities that improve their health and lives.