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. To understand what exactly this will bring to the country, we have to understand the baby boomers.
We often hear a lot about the “baby boomers,” but who exactly are they? The term s used to describe the generation of Americans whose birthdays fall roughly between 1954 and 1964. According to the most recent data from the United States Census Bureau, this generation accounts for 74.1 million people. They are referred to as such to describe the steep increase of births during this time. While there are a number of different factors that went into this swift change, a large amount of the blame is placed upon the face that there were a lot of people celebrating the end of WWII so there were a lot of new babies.
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. There’s an increase in need for healthcare or nursing centers. What happens when a huge chunk of the population ends up dropping out of the workforce and hiking up medical expenses?
We get a country that is forced to compensate for the shockwave of retirees. With a higher demand for elderly-specific facilities and healthcare, it can get a little complicated. Baby Boomers and healthcare is a huge topic today.
Who are the Baby Boomers?
Our full disclosure would be to say that this is a vast generalization of millions of people. This label does not fully apply to every member of this generation. However, due to the climate surrounding the birth of the baby boomers, they have gotten a reputation for being the generation that likes to indulge themselves more than their previous generations.
On top of this, they grew up in a flourishing economy where many of them have been used to being able to afford what they want. 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.
This 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 have crossed a critical point.
On top of that, 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 an increased instance of different medical problems. These problems include asthma, obesity, and even diabetes.
This means that they have more medical expenses than the previous generation of seniors as well as use the system for a longer duration. Of these medical conditions that baby boomers seem to have a higher frequency of, chronic conditions such as arthritis and Multiple sclerosis are huge contenders as obstacles.
Even beyond the temperament and behavior of the generation, chronic conditions pose their own special problems to the system. 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, it could be disastrous for Medicare. The financial strain this could pose to the Medicare system.
If that’s the case, the cost of Medicare gets hiked for everyone (or the younger generations will see a sharp increase in their taxes). While Medicare does offer an amazing opportunity to help the aging baby boomers, it isn’t a miracle response that should be solely relied off of.
The Baby Boomer Healthcare Crisis
Even before the Baby Boomer crisis came into play, there has always been a real problem with the American healthcare system. Compared to other industrialized nations, the United States is known for being less than efficient.
On top of that, there is a shortage of medical staff nationwide leaves the healthcare system ill-equipped to deal with this rise in patients. Now while the medical system continues to be understaffed, the number of baby boomers in need of medical care continues to increase.
High medical costs coupled with the lack of medical professionals leads to a terribly failing system that is crippling under the pressure.
While baby boomers and aging are a problem we are already starting to face, 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?
As the healthcare system stands today -it will fil underneath all of the pressure. There are only so many nursing homes and so many trained caretakers, our system is simply not ready for it. If nothing at all changes, we will be stuck in a rut, however this fate is avoidable.
When baby boomers and healthcare meet, the United States can expect to see a reformation in the system. It won’t necessarily be a drastic change, but it will certainly be a shift in how we are expected to do things.
What to Expect from Baby Boomers and Healthcare
There are quite a few changes we might expect to see with these changes in response to a rising elderly population. Although we cannot know exactly how everything will change, patterns that we have been seeing today are catching our eyes and are good for estimations.
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 qualify under.
While commercial plans may be seen as better quality in a lot of cases, they are often much more expensive and have a lot of restrictions when it comes to membership. For example, seniors suffering from pre-existing medical conditions will be less likely to find an affordable commercial plan.
For some clarification, you don’t have to be completely unhealthy to suffer from a preexisting medical condition that may end up costing you. While the list of what this means varies between insurance companies, this is a general overview of what you should expect to be evaluated on.
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. Suffering from these conditions hinders one’s chance of getting an inexpensive rate on commercial insurance (if they quality for one at all).
Our historically low incomes are hitting seniors hard. Many baby boomers are finding it harder to retire and make ends meet. Unfortunately, this means that we have a whole lot of seniors that are unable to afford these higher rates for commercial care. This is why there is no surprise that there has already been this shift of seniors going over to Medicare.
Medicare is a very affordable, government-provided option for pretty much any person living in the United States who lacks the financial means to afford healthcare. 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
When we say it like that, Medicare seems like it is just the option that makes sense. The shift can bring money back into the government as well as offer programs that will help out the financial status of elderly individuals.
Unfortunately, the situation is not as easy as it seems. With this shift over to Medicare, there will be a huge abundance of people in an already stressed system. While it will also bring in some more money to improve everything, there are still some things that need to be figured out in order to compensate for the influx of people.
The faculties behind Medicare have already been preparing for this intense change. Instead of trying to continue the systems they have held up, they are experimenting with new models. Different reimbursement models are obviously a risk, but one that could pay off tremendously.
One of the models currently being tested in the Medicare program are patient-centered medical homes and quality linked reimbursement. These programs can be the answer to all of the concerns over how we will have to handle baby boomers.
Now, these approaches may be a hit or miss. While the plans are 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.
Of course, some of these obstacles lie in financial means as well as the practicality of such trials. There is one more factor that must be taken into consideration. The ways of their generation.
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 of the system. There is a very obvious answer that may not surprise you all too much -keep baby boomers healthy!
While there is a lot of times where this is easier said than done, it is possible to take steps to improve one’s health which in turn takes a little relief off of the healthcare system.
Of course, diseases such as cancer or many chronic conditions are often unpredictable and unavoidable, several of the medical conditions that have seen a spike in the baby boomer generation are.
Taking Care of an Aging Baby Boomer
Obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol problems are three very prominent conditions of the baby boomer generations. These are also all very 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 your control.
Diet and exercise play two key roles in this as well and easily manageable. Eating a balanced diet that limits your artificial sugar intake can do a lot. 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 shocking amount of sugar in them that can write out danger for someone who is vulnerable to a diabetes diagnosis. You can always consult with a medical professional or dietician to see which diet is right for you.
You may be surprised how much energy having the right diet can give you, and this is perfect for the second step -being active. It is important that baby boomers in an aging population don’t stop moving. Being active is a great way to stay healthy and limit your chance of acquiring one of these medical conditions.
You don’t need to be super fit to stay active. Just 30 minutes of activity a day can put you on the right path to a healthy lifestyle! Try taking a peaceful stroll around your neighborhood or going for a nice swim. Everyone can enjoy a little night of dancing too!
You can always make simple choices to your lifestyle as well. Try to opt for the stairs instead of the escalator. You can also choose to walk whenever you can versus taking a bus or train.
Baby boomers in an aging population are causing some major problems to the healthcare system. Actions need to be taken in order to get the situation under control.