The support systems for seniors and their family caregivers are built around this pattern.
Since the world is changing at lightning speed, I wonder what caregivers might look like in 2050.
The first step is to take a look at the changes coming to the senior population.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2050 our population will be older and more ethnically and racially diverse. Minorities in the senior population today represent one-third of the population, but they’re expected to become the majority by 2042. Hispanics, Asian-Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and African Americans will see the largest growth rates.
With the caregiver support systems built around white, female caregivers, what changes will need to be made in order to support the diversity of our senior population?
According to projections, there will be a population explosion of seniors. By 2050, the number of Americans 65 and older as well as the population of those 85 and up will be double today’s number. Will we see the same explosion in the number of family caregivers?
The senior population also will be more gender-diverse.
Today, it’s estimated there are 1.75 million to 4 million lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender seniors. According to the Administration on Aging, this number is expected to double by 2050.
Today the average care receiver is female, 77, widowed and living in her own home. How will racial, ethnic and gender diversity change the profile of caregivers? What will elder care look like in 2050?
Since the number of family caregivers will not be able to keep pace with the growing number of frail older people, caregivers will be in short supply.
The caregiver support ratio is calculated as the number of potential caregivers age 45 to 64 for each person 80 or older. In 2010, the caregiver support ratio was seven potential caregivers for every person age 80 or older. By 2050, that number is expected to fall to three to one.
Because of the lack of available family caregivers and the changes in ethnic, racial and gender makeup of elders in our future, family caregivers may not be family at all.
As a population, African Americans are more likely to receive elder care from a non-family member. LGBT seniors typically use nonfamily social networks they refer to as “families of choice.” My husband and I cared for our childless neighbors. We were not family.
We need to find a term that everyone can identify with because if individuals don’t identify themselves as “family” caregivers, they won’t seek help when challenged with the overwhelming demands of caring for someone else.
Caregiving will no longer be a woman’s role. Families have become smaller over the years, leaving smaller pools of daughters available for family care. This scarcity of women will put pressure on more men to participate in elder care.
Time spent in care will constrain time spent in other life activities, especially work. Caregiving will become an organizational challenge, especially when, according to AARP, 70 percent of working caregivers experience work-related challenges as a result of their dual workingcaregiver role.
Alzheimer’s disease will place an unprecedented and unanticipated burden on caregivers.
It was estimated in 2010 there were 5 million people in the United States with Alzheimer’s disease. That number in 2050 is projected to be 13.8 million.
Today, only 45 percent of people with Alzheimer’s or their caregivers report being told of their diagnosis, compared to 90 percent of people with the four most common types of cancer, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Becoming aware of a diagnosis is the first step in understanding that care is needed. We hope the statistics changes in the future.
As a society, good care is possible if we start planning now. We need to develop new support systems for the changing dynamics of the senior and caregiver population.