February 23, 2015
Every day, 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age. By the year 2050, 27 million Americans will require some form of long-term care or assistance. The phenomenon of our aging society is often described in fearful terms like “the retirement crisis.” However, Ai-jen Poo, author of The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America, wants to change the way we talk about elder care.
The author notes that the societal mindset regarding this issue is one of scarcity and fear – will we have the resources to care for this new generation? Instead of viewing it as a crisis, she says it’s as an opportunity to build a better system for our seniors and caregivers. If our country’s current approach to elder care doesn’t change, by 2050 there will be three times more families in need of care services than workers trained to perform this meaningful work.
According to Poo, in order to counteract this imbalance, we will need to increase awareness and training in elder care, thus creating millions of jobs. As people begin to live longer, families experience increased costs due to hospital admissions and chronic illness management. Having more trained care workers would actually save money for both our countries and our families. Increased access to basic care allows complications to be caught earlier, and can help seniors avoid risks like falling or forgetting to take medication. Training caregivers is an investment that results in cost savings over time.
Elder care-taking is such a valuable area of work. It brings love, connection, and meaning into the lives of both the caretakers and those being cared for. For many older adults, their caretaker is a family member. Unfortunately, not all families live close together or have the resources to care for an aging relative.
It’s time we create more options for families of all backgrounds and abilities, so we can stop feeling stressed about aging family members and instead be able to celebrate their presence in our lives.
To quote Ai-jen Poo: “Living longer is about loving longer, learning longer, teaching longer, connecting longer, if we figure out the supports and infrastructure to make all of that possible — and it is completely within reach.”