Gail's Blog

The Tsunami About to Hit the USA

While we fritter away our time with social media, 24 hour news blasts and the wringing of hands about the elections, there is a big threat about to hit our shores. It is already apparent but we have chosen to give it lip service if that. It is the global decline in the birth rate. Before you dismiss this idea, there are some thoughts you might like to consider. One of these is the attainment of critical mass. Articles and books are written about the phenomena of aging in America but little to less is being done to address the myriad problems related to this global decline.

Each day in 2024 over 11,000 Americans are turning 65. In 2024 we will have added 4.1 million Americans who turned 65. The surge is due to the Baby Boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964, reaching retirement age. By 2030, all Baby Boomers will be over 65. Who will take care of this group and where will the resources come from to fund this large segment of our society?

To top it off, life expectancy is increasing so the aged will live longer. This is particularly true in advanced industrial countries. These numbers are not covered by an equal number of workers to support this growing population. The care of the elderly will use a significant portion of the younger population’s time, energy and money. Eventually we will have a shift in medicine that will assist in their care but in the interim, how and who will care for this population?

When you look at the younger population and the reduction of this age group, who will take care of the food production, nurse the sick and help oversee the social fabric of the nation? This condition can cause unexpected social and economic unrest. Will machines take over some of the task of caring for the elderly? Most likely, unless birth rates increase and medicine comes up with age reversal, we will probably have to use machines to do some of the daily care.

Many of those over 65 will choose to stay in the workforce but, more often than not, there will be incapacitated individuals who cannot work any more and will use up more of the care. Perhaps we will have to rely on immigrants to help fill the lack of worker pools. This, in of itself, can be a problem. Looking at today’s political climate, immigration is frowned upon and there is hardly a sensible program put forth by Congress in the last 30+ years. America’s past history has shown it was built on immigration and it helped salvage the country through some troubling times. It must be considered that this is a global problem of the aged and other countries will also be competing for immigrants to fill the need. There is quite a bit of global tension around the issue of immigration so it will not be that easy to just change our policy and have overnight success.

In the meantime, the elderly will and are suffering. There is a nationwide shortage of health care workers in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and private placement in homes. The pay is usually awful and the work hard and long. Families are scrambling to pay for care when they can get it and the government has little to say to address this problem. The majority of these facilities are owned by private, for-profit corporations and have little government oversight or enforcement. Earlier this year I stopped in a tiny shop to get a passport photo. The owner was an overworked, over-65-year old woman who had to work to support both she and her disabled husband. He was unable to get out of bed or prepare food himself. She would put extra diapers on him when she went to work, leave his lunch on the side table near his bed and at the end of the day, she would go home and clean him up and take care of him prior to bed. This is America’s care for the elderly. She couldn’t afford anyone to come and help and had applied to the state for home health care but was still waiting for the replies. She, herself, was in poor shape and I wondered how long she would last.

Time and time again I have spoken to family members who can barely afford a double or triple occupancy room for their loved ones when they are being asked to come up with an extra $2500/month for poor to average care. Our government has forgotten the care of this growing group as they are no longer producers in our society. There is little to no lobbying for these neglected citizens. As my Arabs friends used to say they are our “warehouses of death”. We put our family members in them and wait for them to die.

It is time for America to address this oncoming tsunami. We are all going to age and be in need of care at some time in our lives. Long-term care is priced out of the market for most individuals and government programs for the disabled and elderly come down to social security, SSI (which pays a pittance and prevents a person from making over $2000 a year) and Medicare. There are no plans in the vocabulary of our leaders addressing this soon-to-be in your face issue. The elderly don’t march, lobby, or do TV interviews. Child care is a big issue but elder care is a non-event–until it is breathing down your own neck. You should start feeling the breath around 2025. Who of us will focus on this issue after the elections. Every powerful group has a lobby and influences. Where are the brave legislators who will bring these conditions out of the shadows. It is coming whether we ignore it now or later.

10 responses to “The Tsunami About to Hit the USA”

  1. Gail Minogue says:

    Thank you Jeanine. The time is now. The movement is here. It just will get worse for awhile as we must face the large movement of the aged and their needs.

  2. Gail Minogue says:

    Thank you DawnMarie. The elderly are already being demonized as we are afraid to grow old, look old or move slower in our society. Leaders themselves won’t talk about aging and what goes with it.

  3. Gail Minogue says:

    You go Lisbeth. Hooray for being active for so many of us. People are working 2 or 3 jobs and taking care of family members might not be an option. Our system is being forced to look at death and it doesn’t want to. We will have much to face to make changes. When we won’t, we will go kicking and screaming as we get dragged into facing our own mortality as a society.

  4. Stephen Dynako says:

    I have been involved as a caregiver to varying degrees with both friends and family, and one’s experience need not be very deep to conclude that “the system” is broken. To me it seems that business, government and society as a whole have made the demigod of capitalism the one true god, and until we collectively shake the scales from our eyes, those who keep hoarding the money will continue to be the ones who benefit the most.

  5. Lisbeth Applefield says:

    Thank you Gail for this important clarion call and thank you Noreen for sharing your lived experience that many of us are becoming painfully aware of. Nothing changes if nothing changes! Let’s start making changes. At 76, I’m still marching writing calling and protesting regardless of if my age. I do it because bread winners are working two and three jobs to support their families, and they can’t do it.

  6. Caterina Arends says:

    Excellent and important post, Gail. Thank you!

  7. DawnMarie says:

    Gail, do you remember John Naisbitt’s book “Megatrends” published in 1982? I remember reading it as a teenager. It was very sobering and spoke of all you’re describing.

    I always appreciate your wisdom, Gail.

    The Council on Aging of Southern California is a wonderful nonprofit working in this space but, as you point out, this issue is not top of mind for most.

    Sadly, as with immigrants, the elderly will at some point be demonized with little or no regard for their contributions.

  8. Jeanine Just says:

    Gail, Thanks for writing this “harsh truth” info. I’ve been waking people up to the Age Wave since the 80s. I hope millions of truth seekers read this, take it seriously, pass it on to their loved ones and that it goes viral. All the best to you, Jeanine

  9. Gail Minogue says:

    Thank you Noreen. All goes well until the caretaker goes down or added unexpected expenses come up. Some people have no one to advocate for them or even visit. A very sad state of affairs.

  10. Noreen Lassandrello says:

    We can only hope that as women begin to be more represented in our government, the concerns of caregivers will become a more important issue.As a grandparent, and a daughter, I have spent the last 10 yrs of my life caring for both grandkids and parents. It was stressful and beautiful depending on the day. If you are lucky enough to be in the middle class, both parents working, all grandparents helping, then you be able to hang in there, and if there are no unexpected expenses, and no health issues. Don’t even get me started on the level of care at memory-care facilities. A family member must always be paying attention and making sure their loved one is getting the appropriate care. I could go on and on.

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