AARP report: Shortage of caregivers for the Baby Boom generation
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
by: Policy Team

Section: Public Policy and Advocacy

In an August report, “The Aging of the Baby Boom and the Growing Care Gap,” AARP warns that Americans will face a shortage of family caregivers for the elderly.  The study documents the deteriorating accessibility of family caregivers, including family members, partners, or close friends, to provide long-term services and supports (LTSS) in the coming decades by using a “caregiver support ratio,” which measures the number of prospective caregivers for each person aged 80 and older. 

In the report, AARP maintains that the United States needs a comprehensive person-and family-centered LTSS policy that would better serve the needs of older persons with disabilities, support family and friends in their caregiving roles, and promote greater efficiencies in public spending.

As the population of those 80 and years and older increases, the number of people in the primary caregiving years (ages 45-64) is project to remain flat.   AARP anticipates that there will only be four potential caregivers available for each person over the age of 80 by 2030.  The ratio will drop even further to 3 to 1 in 2050, when boomers are in the high-risk years of late life.

The “2030 problem,” as it has been defined by researchers is a combination of circumstances including the large number of baby boomers, the fact that boomers had fewer children than past generations, and longer life spans for both men and women. 

Currently there are 42.1 million adults in the United States caring for friends or family members.  Nearly two-thirds of those caregivers are women, and more than 80 percent of the people they care for are over 50.  The “average” family caregiver, as defined by the AARP is a 49-year-old woman who works outside the home and spends about 20 hours per week providing unpaid care to her mother for nearly five years.

In the coming decades, however, the number of caregivers will be scarce while the need for them increases.  From 7 potential caregivers for those 80 and older today, the caregiver ration is projected to shrink to just 4 in 2030.  The disparity is anticipated to become even great as the ratio continues to decline to just 2.9 by 2050. 

The full report, “The Aging of the Baby Boom and the Growing Care Gap,” can be viewed here,and a brief summary of the report can be viewed here.
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