The baby boom generation -- those born between 1946 and 1964 -- is uniquely affected by the growing dilemma of long term care. As they age and expect to rely on a financing system established by the government, that system threatens to deteriorate and collapse under the unprecedented number of baby boomers who will need long term care.
The retirement of the baby boom generation will coincide with tremendous advances in medical science and, with that, longer lives. And though the baby boomers may retire with the largest nest eggs in history, they will be forced to apply much of their hard-earned savings toward the long term care these medical advances warrant.
An Immediate Problem
The problem of long term care financing is a pressing one for the baby boom generation. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the number of Baby Boomers aged 65 to 84 is expected to grow 80 percent in the next 30 years. Many have not begun to plan for long term care needs, while many others believe those needs will be met by government health care programs. Given the staggering costs, it is difficult to pay for long term care when one has worked hard and saved for retirement.
It is next to impossible when a family is not prepared.
"Now is the time to prepare to meet the demands that will come when the baby boomer generation retires," a report by the Senate Special Commission on Aging concluded.
The baby boom generation is growing old, and the numbers are staggering. As medical science increases the length of our lives, it is increasing the need for sustained long term care. Every eight seconds in America a baby boomer turns 50.
Baby boomers are at a precarious crossroads. Many are "sandwiched"-- forced to balance paying for their children's college education while meeting the long term care needs of an elderly parent. This puts a burdensome emotional and financial strain on a generation that has worked hard for a lifetime to enjoy retirement. It also places a heavy strain on the children of baby boomers, who may have to consider the use of their own savings and retirement plans to meet the needs of their aging parents.
Baby Boomers at Financial Risk
A new national study indicates that members of the baby boom generation largely are unprepared for retirement. A report by the National Center for Women and Retirement Research shows that 25 percent of those polled had not made financial plans for retirement. The median amount of assets baby boomers have set aside for retirement is $30,000--an amount that would cover less than one year of nursing facility costs ($51,000/year). Yet the average stay in a nursing facility is 2.3 years.
"The current system of financing and delivering long term care for the baby boomer generation is badly broken," according to a report by the Urban Institute.
"With roughly 77 million members of the baby boom generation beginning to retire as early as 2010, we will see enormous strains placed on the overall health care delivery system," said Senator John Breaux, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Aging. The increased need for long term care that will accompany the retirement of the baby boomers has largely been ignored. Since many will have failed to plan for long term care, baby boomers who have been financially secure for years could find themselves below the poverty line within months.
(1) U.S. Census Bureau.
(3) Health Care Financing Administration, 1996.