Aging boomers perplexing problem for planners
While there are plenty of war babies, depression babies and even some post World War I babies still around, the baby boomers are getting the attention, because they are and will be the biggest group of older people this country has ever seen in one bulge. They are living longer and being more active than any group their age before them. Fifty years ago when someone was 60 years old they were almost ready to hang it up; today 60 year olds are skydiving, skiing, doing all kinds of things and many are still working at life long career jobs and intend to keep it that way for some time.
In 2007 those over 65 numbered 37.9 million in a county of nearly 300 million people. That was up over 11 percent from 10 years before. Today the average life expectancy of those who reach age 65 is another 19 years, a far cry from a time in America not that long ago that 65 was considered an advanced age.
But even 85 is starting to not be considered old. The number of people living over 100 is increasing rapidly. In 2007 ther were over 80,000 individuals in the United States that were 100 years old or older. That is up 117 percent above 1990 figures, less than 20 years ago.
What does this all mean? Some of what will happen is unknown because this bulge of older humanity has never happened before. But then when the baby boomers came of age in the 1960's and 70's many predicted it was a generation that would self destruct before it ever got to retirement. Well despite a war that tore apart the country (Vietnam), a president who resigned before he was convicted of a crime, a weak economy and national defense in the late 1970's, 9-11, terrorist wars and the greatest recession in the history of the United States next to the great depression, the rock and roll generation has survived.
The fact is that the older population will continue go grow significantly through the middle of this century. The biggest growth will take place between 2010 and 2030 as the boomers begin to hit 65. By 2020 there will be 55 million people over the age of 65 in the United States; that will be a 36 percent increase over the number of people that age in 2010. By 2030 there will be about 72 million people 65 or older. More importantly those over the age of 85 will dramatically increase too with 6.6 million people being over that age in 2020.
The ramifications of this growth for retirement systems, healthcare and business will be huge. Legacy costs for many businesses who have pension funds could be astronomical, while healthcare facilities could be overloaded and taxed to the maximum.
Presently the major sources of income for older people include social security (reported by 89 percent of older people), income from assets (reported by 55 percent), private pensions (reported by 29 percent), government employee pensions (reported by 14 percent) and earnings (reported by 25 percent). Social security constituted 90 percent or more of the income received by 32 percent of all social security beneficiaries.
(Statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).