Will Health Care for Aging Boomers Cripple Their Kids?
There are some issues that refuse to go away. Of the stubborn ones that assail our community,
the notion of the Grey Tsunami is the most intractable and pernicious.
- Moses Znaimer, "Tsunami Redux: Going One More Round with the Save that Never Was,"
Zoomer, December 2012
The real-estate crash has added to nursing homes' budget crunch. Many clients sell their
homes and use the money to pay out of pocket for long-term-care services from a nursing
home. By obliterating more than $8 trillion in home equity, the collapse cut the number of
patients who can pay their own way.
- The coming nursing home shortage, msn Money, 4/10/2012
First let's clear away a major--but largely unrecognized--factor that
affects our perception of this issue. Our major public media love tabloid
style journalism. They want to make us afraid, preferably every day.
News media have always been enamoured by both scandal and potential
sources for fear (think "if it bleeds, it leads" for newspapers and television
news). The issue of Baby Boomers cluttering our health systems and
clogging the provision of adequate care as they age is the latter. It has
been so much promoted that Republicans in the USA believe care for the
elderly will eventually cripple the economy. They call it Obamacare in an
effort to place blame on the Democratic president.
After a decade of severe and trying times of the Great Depression,
followed by the Second World War (aka World War II), the West was
ready to settle down and raise families. In so doing, the decade following
the war generated the greatest number of births in any period of history.
Those post-war babies are now beginning to retire. Many, due to
economic crashes and debt resulting from extraordinarily successful
advertising and convenience of borrowing on credit, will stop working with
no bankroll to support them in their "Golden Years."
The media play on the fear that they will become dependant on public
support and cripple the economy of the once most powerful nation on
earth. Is the fear realistic? About half the population of America have
bought into the fear, so the fear is real even if its cause is not.
One of the problems is that the fear, as with many forms of worry, has no
evidence to support it. Those who oppose this fear-mongering can't argue
against the evidence presented to support the fear because very little has
In my country, Canada, fully 75% of the wealth of the nation is owned by
people over the age of 65 years. Seniors are the wealthiest generation of
older people in my country's history. This is the same demographic it's
claimed will not be able to pay for its own health care.
Baby Boomers have held power in the marketplace since manufacturers
first saw the need for new toys for young children. As they passed
through middle age they forced huge improvements in health care. One
was in medical imaging which allowed for earlier diagnosis of problems
and their correction before patients became victims. Before they became
bed ridden incapacitated patients.
This powerful generation does not want to be confined to beds and wheel
chairs for the final few decades of their life. So it has pushed for better
medical treatment, a better range of healthy foods available in the
markets and many more facilities available to help them stay fit and
I belong to CARP (Canadian Association of Retired People), which has a
US equivalent known as AARP. Just how active are the member groups of
Led by the organization's president, Moses Znaimer, known for
recognizing people needs before others have caught on, a very popular
magazine associated with CARP is known as Zoomer ("Boomers with
Zip"). Zoomer is the most popular magazine in Canada geared to the
Znaimer has also founded Zoomer Media, a rapidly grown multimedia
empire that goes beyond magazine publishing into radio stations,
television specialty channels, speakers conferences and so on. Moses
Znaimer is not known for failure and his success with CARP and Zoomer
Media is ample evidence that aging Boomers will not lie down and be sick
As a result of economic setbacks, bankruptcies and failures in the stock
markets, many seniors find themselves without enough security behind
them to retire at age 65. Instead they have decided to continue working
until they can afford to retire. The point here is that they are healthy
enough to continue working and companies are happy to have them
continue working beyond the traditional retirement age.
The Canadian government even plans to raise the age of eligibility for Old
Age Security payments because there are too many healthy seniors
collecting pension money they don't really need.
Recent studies in Canada and the USA have shown that seniors are the
happiest demographic among all ages. Other studies have shown that
happiness is one of the best indicators of health, and one of the best
ingredients for someone who wants to be healthy.
True, with recent market drops, two-thirds of Canadians over the age of
60 do not feel they have enough income ready for them to collect for
them to live in the style to which they have become accustomed. Given
that these very same people have been living with excesses far beyond
their needs--some have so much stuff they don't know what to do with it
when they move--that may very well be a non-problem.
When you have become accustomed to living with far more than you
need, reducing your expectations of unnecessary excesses and shopping
sprees may be something seniors would have to do anyway. When you
stop feeling the need to "keep up with the Joneses", or even to surpass
them, you can live with far less income.
Older people are also the most educated and experienced generation of
folks on the planet. They have amassed skills and accumulated
experience that simply can't be matched by younger people in the
working world. Many large companies are happy to hire retired seniors
part time to help with projects their younger employees might not be able
to do well.
Volunteerism has become a vast field of opportunities for retired people
who do not need extra income, who have time and who have a desire to
help others. We have more people volunteering in the world today than
ever before in history.
Most volunteering helps others in some way. This altruism is not only
satisfying for participants and beneficial for those who are helped, it is
also healthy for the volunteers themselves. It gives them the feeling of
being needed and wanted beyond anything they have experienced earlier
in their lives.
These people not only do not want to be sick or disabled, dependant on
others for their survival, they insist on being well. They will do whatever
they can to stay well and healthy. Check out the popularity of activities
for seniors in your own area and you may be surprised at how vigorous
they are and how many participate in them.
Seniors not only do not want to become disabled, they are determined to
avoid it. As the old saying goes, they want to die with their boots on.
That's what is happening. The media don't cover that news because there
is nothing scandalous or fearful about it. The situation is something to be
excited about, not fearful of.
Bill Allin in the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for
Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and
teachers who want to grow children who do not become troubled adults.
Learn more at http://billallin.com