There won't be enough friends and family to care for America's aging baby boomers in the decades to come, according to a new AARP report.
In 2010, there were 78 million baby boomers—individuals born between 1946 and 1964—in the United States. Using projections from REMI, a company that does economic modeling, AARP estimated that 60 million of those individuals will still be alive in 2030, and about 20 million in 2050.
Currently, there are 42.1 million adults ages 45 to 64 providing care to friends or family members, according to the report. Nearly 66% of those caregivers are women. According to the report, the average family caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who works outside of the home and spends about 20 hours per week caring for her mother without pay.
The report projected that by 2030 there will be just four potential caregivers for each individual age 80 or older, compared with more than seven potential caregivers per patient in 2010. (Researchers have termed this the "2030 problem," according to the Washington Post.) That figure is expected to drop below the three-to-one in 2050, when baby boomers will be between ages 86 and 104.
Researchers identified several contributing factors to the decrease in caregivers, including the large number of baby boomers, the number of baby boomers who had fewer children than earlier generations, and longer lifespans for men and women.
Lynn Feinberg—a senior strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute and an author of the report—calls the report "a wake-up call for aging boomers." She says, "We're really moving toward an uncertain future as ... relying on our family and friends to provide long-term care isn't going to be realistic anymore."
Feinberg says that lawmakers need to enact policies that offer caregivers better support and more affordable options for home care. According to the Post, a federal commission on long-term care is expected to develop recommendations this fall (Bahrampour, Washington Post, 8/26).