- By 2030, every Baby Boomer will be age 65 or older, which means that 1 out of every 5 U.S. citizens will be of retirement age.
- As a result, there will be far more demand than supply of healthcare in the future. This means that healthcare costs will increase, and we’ll need to adapt.
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America’s Demographics & Aging Population Statistics
2030 is going to be an interesting year in the United States.
The start of the 30s will mark a turning point for demographics in the US, particularly for the elderly population, according to the US Census Bureau’s 2017 National Population Projections. By 2030, every Baby Boomer will be age 65 or older, which means that 1 out of every 5 Americans will be of retirement age.
“The aging of baby boomers means that within just a couple decades, older people are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history,” Jonathan Vespa, a demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau, said in a press release. “By 2035, there will be 78.0 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.7 million (previously 76.4 million) under the age of 18.”
But the impending shift doesn’t stop there. According to Census Bureau projections:
- U.S. population will grow by 79 million people, from about 326 million in 2018 to 404 million by 2060, and will cross the 400-million threshold in 2058.
- In terms of US population by generation, as the adult population ages, the old-age dependency ratio (the ratio of older adults to working-age adults) will also shift. By 2020, there were 3.5 working-age adults for every retirement-age person but by 2060, that ratio will drop to just 2.5.
- The median age of the U.S. population is expected to grow from age 38 today to age 43 by 2060.
Aging Population Problems & Issues
So how did we arrive at this impending senior population surge, and all the issues that come along with it? For one, the U.S. wasn’t quite prepared to handle the combination of increased life expectancy and a population surge in the last few decades.
Average life expectancy in the U.S. was slightly less than 70 years old in 1968, but as been steadily rising to reach almost 79 years old in 2016. The population in 1968 was slightly more than 200 million, but reached 323 million by 2016.
This population boom is also putting increased pressure on Social Security and public health services. As of 2020, the program began paying out more than it takes in, thanks to senior citizens and retirees starting to draw more from Social Security rather than contribute to it. And while this transition was expected, the rate of the draw means that based on current projections, Social Security will have insufficient funds to pay out promised benefits and expenditures by the mid- to late 2030s, according to Forbes.
Finally, we’ll be dealing with more long-term healthcare costs thanks to an aging population. The U.S. home care market is expected to grow from $100 billion in 2016 to $225 billion by 2024, driven by an expanding geriatric population.
Aging Population in US & Healthcare Costs
The problem, in a nutshell, is that there will be far more demand than supply of healthcare in the future. This means that healthcare costs will increase, and we’ll need to adapt.
Total national health expenditures are expected to reach $5 billion by 2025, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. National health expenditures as a percentage of GDP hit more than 15% in 2016, and that figure will climb to 19.4% of GDP (approximately $6 trillion) in 2027, according to annual estimates from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. And a major factor in that growth will be the population aging into Medicare.
A swelling senior citizen population equals higher patient volumes, which will further upset the supply and demand balance of healthcare, a problem that’s already at a tipping point due to U.S. providers’ existing caregiver shortage. By 2025, US providers will face a collective shortage of about 500,000 home health aides, 100,000 nursing assistants, and 29,000 nurse practitioners, Mercer estimates.
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Digital Health Trends for The Aging Population
Despite the grim forecast, the future of our aging population is not hopeless. Several digital technologies already in the healthcare space will become more prevalent in the coming years to help reduce costs.
Arguably the most potentially impactful change is home care. According to AARP, 87% of adults age 65 and older want to stay in their current home and community as they age. And aside from remaining in a comfortable and known environment, it’s also a massive cost savings. Consider these 2016 national averages from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
- $225 a day or $6,844 per month for a semi-private room in a nursing home
- $253 a day or $7,698 per month for a private room in a nursing home
- $119 a day or $3,628 per month for care in an assisted living facility (for a one-bedroom unit)
But how exactly can home care reduce costs? First, we have telehealth, which simply refers to the use of mobile technology to allow medical professionals to monitor their patients outside of traditional clinical settings, such as hospitals and doctor’s offices. And with Medicare telehealth regulations loosening, its popularity will only increase.
A subset of that is remote patient monitoring (RPM), the specific technology used to electronically transmit information between patients and physicians, and it is just one delivery system within the broader telehealth industry.
Common examples of remote patient monitoring devices include voice apps that remind diabetes patients to take their insulin. These same apps allow their doctors to monitor their conditions. Some seniors also wear digital blood pressure cuffs that remotely send their blood pressure and pulse to their doctors with no action required on the patient’s part other than to simply wear the cuff.
Cutting-edge technology is also finally infiltrating home care, specifically assisted living facilities. Voice assistants such as the Amazon Echo/Alexa and Google Home help senior citizens remember their daily schedules (when to eat, take their medication, or go to their doctors appointments). Smart pillboxes help with dosage amounts and timing. Even smart clothing can help doctors monitor their patients’ movements to check for irregular walking, or to alert the patient’s team if the person falls. Beyond that, motion detectors, smart mattresses, and even personal robots can help make the assisted living experience more pleasant in the senior’s later years.