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Oldies and the future

While on a fishing trip in Manitoba, a friend asked me how we will handle the aging demographics of our society.

His parents have aged. Their wealth was in their home which they needed to sell for assisted living. If they are lucky, their funds will sustain them for the remainder of their lives. If not, my friend and his brother are capable of helping them financially. Otherwise, the government will help a little.

Wealth transfer? Health of the elderly? This is, after all, a recent phenomenon.

Inheritance is now a middle- class problem. But wealth transfer is mostly from the WW II generation.

Social security and Medicare to support folks in old age is less than 100 years old.

Historically children took care of their parents. Bismarck introduced pensions in Germany in 1889 as a way to co-opt socialism. He set the age at 70 (it was later reduced to 65) as most workers died by then. Roosevelt used 65 when he introduced social security. Part of his motivation was to open up jobs for the young.

Our demographics and those of many developed countries are signaling an older population. That is the future.

For many in the US, social security is their support system.

In the Peoples’ Republic of China, the government now requires that children take care of their parents. Is that a solution? Perhaps not in a time where children often live apart from their parents, and where attitudes on family have changed.

As we age, dementia and physical disease become a problem. Some take care of their parents, but mostly we warehouse them. Neither is an ideal solution.

It looks now as if we have a way of reducing the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia if diagnosed early. Much of a person’s health is determined at birth, with some environment tossed in. Will the study of genetics help to reduce frailties in old age? I believe so, as I also see a shift in medicine from curing patients to prevention.

So let us come back to the original challenge. What will be done for the increase in our aged population?

I have witnessed several situations where a spouse cannot let go and get outside care. Money is not an issue. The caregiver quietly kills themselves by not seeking help.

Is warehousing the solution? Most folks want to maintain their independence and do not want to go into assisted living, far from warehousing.

In part, the solution has to do with costs and the reform of medicine. Should we work on prevention? A super idea which may lie in the future.

The consolidation of health care is leading to outrageous costs. One leader of a systems gets $10 million a year where doctors & nurses are overstretched for “productivity” (designed, I suspect, for higher income for the top).

So, we know what the future will bring. How can we prepare for it?


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