Financial problems in the U.S. stemming from the aging baby boomer generation are only going to get worse, says NPR in its Family Matters series, and government entitlement programs won’t be able to sustainably provide care for the growing senior population.
Roughly 78 million boomers are entering their retirement years, and while they’re “young” seniors now, their health likely won’t last—and neither will their resources.
For individuals, families, local government officials and federal taxpayers, this demographic shift will drain dollars and attention, and force extremely difficult decisions about living arrangements, as well as end-of-life care.
The government is running short of funds for existing programs. Medicare’s trustees recently said the program that provides medical care to the elderly will remain solvent only until 2024. The Social Security system already is paying out more than it is taking in.
More than 50 million Americans reside in multigenerational homes. And in many of these households, middle-aged “children” are caring for elderly parents, as well as providing shelter for their own grown children. In many cases, family members are making big financial sacrifices to help each other.
But the squeeze may get even tighter for future households because boomers generally had fewer children, and more divorces, compared with the World War II generation. A Pew Research Center analysis of census data found that the boomer generation “offers its elderly parents about 50 percent more grown children with whom they can share a household.”
Providing aging Americans with long-term care “is a bona fide need and growing concern,” said David Walker, a former U.S. comptroller general and an expert on federal spending. “But we have to recognize that the U.S. government has overpromised in the area of health care. We can’t make more entitlement promises.”
About 20% of older people are now living with another generation, according to the Pew Research Center, and that number is expected to keep rising. But doubling up to save on living costs “may fall far short of the trillions of dollars that would be needed to hire all of the care needed to cope with all of the long-lived elderly,” NPR says.
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Written by Alyssa Gerace