Baby Boomers may be stepping up now to care for aging parents, but when they’re the ones who need the help, there might not be enough people to provide it.
According to a report released Monday from the AARP Public Policy Institute, over the next 20 years, as boomers get into their 80s, the number of potential caregivers will drop dramatically. In 2010, there were 7.2 possible caregivers (people aged 45 to 64 years old) for every person over the age of 80. By 2030, the AARP projects that ratio will fall to four to one and, by 2050, they expect it to reach less than three to one.
Sure, the Kurzweilians among us might argue that the approaching Singularity and the melding of machine and man could make caregivers less necessary. But experts predict that a dearth of family caregivers will result in higher costs for society, as people become more likely to land in nursing homes and other institutions.
“It’s a wake-up call for aging boomers,” said Lynn Feinberg, a senior strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute and an author of the report, told the Washington Post. “We’re really moving toward an uncertain future as . . . relying on our family and friends to provide long-term care isn’t going to be realistic anymore.”
Policy-oriented changes, such as better support for caregivers and more affordable home care options, are a key part of the solution, Feinberg told the Post.
But technology that enables remote monitoring, early disease detection, better care coordination and other services could make a difference, too.
Neurotrack, for example, says it can identify patients at risk for developing Alzheimer’s years before the onset of the condition. There are also sensor systems like the “magic carpet” developed by GE and Intel that monitor seniors’ activity and then predict and detect falls. Meanwhile startup Gerijoy offers a tablet-based mobile app that gives seniors virtual companionship to reduce depression and potentially diminish dementia.
Entrepreneurs tend to be young and they also tend to “scratch their own itch,” so to speak. So it’s not surprising that there aren’t as many senior-care startups as there are companies launching services for twenty-somethings looking for easier ways to socialize and shop. But, encouraged by the AARP and the rare investor without a youth bias, as well as the rise of digital health in general, more startups (from young and old founders) are taking on the estimated $3.5 trillion boomer market.