If you’re one of the individuals who are part of the upcoming gray wave, you’ve likely been more focused on finding care for your aging parents than for yourself. After all, you still have decades until you need to contemplate your care options. But ask yourself this—who will care for you? Perhaps your children or another family member? What if you have to join a retirement community or assisted living facility? Will there be enough employees to care for you and the other residents?
What most current and future retirees don’t realize is that the senior living industry will soon face a crisis of more seniors requiring care during their golden years and the infrastructure, such as government funding, employees and communities, isn't equipped to care for these millions of people.
This is why the Assisted Living Federal of America (ALFA) launched the Senior Living 2025 initiative earlier this year to start the conversation within the senior living industry. Whether you are an a retiree who in 10 years will need supportive services to remain independent or an adult child who may be tasked with finding an assisted living community for an aging parent in the near future, you could benefit from this insight into the industry, as this crisis will affect not only your future care but many aspects of society.
What are the challenges?
ALFA identified four challenges that the senior living industry will face in the coming years.
According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, in 2015 there were currently 7 caregivers (ages 45-64) to 1 senior (age 80 and older). In 15 years that number will shrink to 4:1; by 2050, there will be a 3:1 ratio. Yet in spite of the guaranteed jobs that await those who decide to focus on geriatrics, the Institute of Medicine’s 2008 report found that younger workers are not interested in working with seniors.
*All infographics are courtesy of ALFA.
In 25 years, the Administration on Aging projects that the population of seniors 85+ will double, totaling over 14 million. And how will the senior living industry care for this influx of people, especially when 75% of seniors have at least two common chronic conditions and are living longer? ALFA sees the solution as creating advances in technology and healthcare services.
The senior living industry is a service industry, and with retirement communities often designed to have all the amenities of a town right on site (a beauty salon, gift store, bistro and wellness center), a well-managed community requires dedicated staff filling numerous positions that don't involve healthcare services. So how can the senior living industry entice younger workers to enter the industry, especially when interest in working with the senior population is lacking? The solution is developing not only new ways that technology can provide better care but also retain skilled employees. Currently there are over 735,000 residents in assisted living communities and community managers recognize that the care that is provided by their employees directly affects whether future residents will consider joining the community. This is why they are focusing efforts to increase education and training opportunities.
Where do you envision living during retirement: in the same family home, in another state or will you join a retirement community? What is for certain is that you won’t lack for choices, especially since ALFA sees the senior living industry as “playing an important role in how consumers finance their most enriching years.” But while your parents may have their long-term care covered, hopefully you are not one of the 38% of Americans who think their retirement will be comfortable.
Planning where you will spend summer vacation is complicated enough, but then when you factor in planning for retirement may be 10, 20 or 30 years away, it doesn’t seem real. But before we know it, it will be 2025, and hopefully we aren't experiencing the crisis that experts are currently foretelling.