According to the Census Bureau, the number of adults aged 65 and older will more than double by 2030, rising to a total of 88.5 million, or 19% of the U.S. population. And don’t just expect short-term growth – now that the life expectancy of women is 80.6 years and 75.5 years for men, adults 85 years and older are expected to be the fastest-growing elderly demographic in the next century.
How should we be thinking about (or rethinking) public policy in light of these demographic shifts? Dr. Martha Bial, director of Fordham University’s Japanese and American Institute in Gerontology and faculty research scholar at the Ravazzin Center on Aging, recently spoke with Catholic Charities executive director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan about this important topic on JustLove, Catholic Charities’ weekly Sirius/XM Radio show.
“The elder boom has enormous implications for the funding of social security, and implications for how to keep pensions sustainable.” said Bial. “When social security was first put into effect, the average life expectancy was 65. It was supposed to be a very short-term thing. But now, people are generally living healthier. The average life expectancy is now around 82 years.” Bial noted that increasing the retirement age would have repercussions throughout the employment landscape, for all ages – affecting the ways we think about the elder work force, what is expected from workers, and the availability of jobs.
Japan as Model for Elder Care
Bial said that much can be learned about handle an aging population from Japan and other Asian countries, where an increase in women working and a shrink in the size of households is leaving many elderly adults without caretakers. “It used to be that there would be many multigenerational households in Japan,” said Bial. “Traditionally, an elder widow or widower would move in with married children… but now that’s happening with less than half of Japanese families.”
“[Japan] moved from a young society to an old society faster because they have a very low birth rate and almost no immigration,” said Bial. “The United States has some of these same issues, but we have a large immigrant population that provides a lot of the elder care.”
The “Well Elderly”
In addition to thinking about Social Security, Bial encourages us to also consider the “Well Elderly” – older adults from ages 65 to past 100 who are healthy, active, and still have a desire to work. For this group, we should think about their sources of income and safe, adequate housing. Employers should be proactive in creating flexible employment policies, she said, so that if elder employees’ stamina or desire to work decreases, employment requirements can be adjusted.
And as a related issue, we should consider making more public transportation options available for the members of the elderly workforce who might not be able to drive. This will enable them to make the contributions to society that they are still able to make.
The Caretaker’s Guide
There are many resources available online for caretakers of the elderly. If you are caring for a family member, we encourage you to seek support and guidance from a large, vibrant community that is eager to help.
Share your own favorite resources with us by leaving a comment – we look forward to keeping this guide as complete and up-to-date as possible.
Catholic Charities Case Management and Senior Centers
Call 888-744-7900 or submit a request for services online through the Catholic Charities Help Line. From 2010 – 2011, Catholic Charities case managers provided assistance to 78 seniors in need.
Catholic Charities senior centers serve an average of 185 seniors each day. Contact one of the centers below to take advantage of activities and resources, and to join a vibrant community of older adults.
Catholic Charities Community Services Senior Guild, 120 Anderson Ave., Port Richmond, Staten Island. Call: 718-448-5757.
West Brighton Senior Center, 230 Broadway, West Brighton, Staten Island. Call: 718-727-9763
Stapleton Senior Center, 189 Gordon Street, Staten Island. Call: 718 876-5660
Find a nursing home, assisted living, or hospice; check your eligibility for benefits; get resources for long-distance caregiving; review legal issues; and find support for caregivers.
Statistics, facts and program results, in addition to information on emergency preparedness, national benefits programs, and long-term care planning.
Health and wellness information for older adults from the National Institutes of Health and the National Library of Medicine.
Includes interactive tools for planning and paying for long-term care and nursing facilities, and for choosing among drug plans.
Online Communities for Caregivers
Family Caregiver Alliance Programs on information, education, services, research and advocacy support the work of family caregivers. Includes caregiver tips, personal stories and photos, fact sheets and publications, discussion groups and newsletters.
Family Caregiving 101 Resources, FAQ, and quality information on how to deal with the challenges of caregiving.
CARING.COM Advice, articles, and an extensive directory of senior living resources. Also features a guide to Alzheimer’s care.
Children of Aging Parents. Support groups, both online and face-to-face. Newsletter focuses on interpersonal matters like stress among siblings, caregiver depression and getting through the holidays.
The New Old Age blog (New York Times)
Most adults over age 80 will spend years dependent on their baby boomer children for their basic needs. “The New Old Age” explores this intergenerational challenge.
Housing and Living
Take the easy 12-question “Needs Assessment” quiz to evaluate your care needs.
Includes easy-to-navigate directories for active adults, retirees, Alzheimer’s patients and more.
Research and Articles
The Center has engaged in a variety of research projects designed to examine the role of social work in helping older adults and family members understand end of life issues and planning tools.
A collection of articles by Michael B. Friedman, social advocate and Columbia University Professor in the field of geriatric policy and practice.