Lori K. Bitter

Lori K. Bitter

I can’t help but think that as a generation we are blowing it. Politically. We now have two candidates — squarely of the Baby Boomer generation and neither is talking about the aging of America. Why aren’t we holding them accountable for that? Why hasn’t the generation that created a “movement” for every cause taken up the cause of our own aging?

Is it denial? Malaise? Is this the ultimate act of ageism perpetrated on ourselves? What are we waiting for? I watched with a combination of pride and astonishment as a younger, activated generation of voters “feeling the Bern” nearly upset a crowned candidate. And I wondered why my generation isn’t similarly standing up for itself, and pushing our candidates to understand our needs.

How about these issues for a start:

7.8 million children live in “grandfamilies” where grandparents are head of household. This crosses income, race and ethnicity. The underlying issues are varied, but the top reasons cited in research are:

  • Substance abuse/opioid addiction
  • Parental incarceration
  • Mental illness
  • Deployment of one or both parents

These grandparents, who struggle with policies and rights, put their own health and retirement at peril to support their grandchildren.

Multigenerational living is on the rise. This style of living hit an all time low in the 1980s and began to peak again during the recession. Builders have created models for this style of living. Families that moved in together for financial reasons are staying together. While many of these stories are positive and supportive (even the Obama’s brought multigenerational living to the White House) there is a dark side:

  • Continued unemployment or under-employment
  • Lack of affordable housing for young and old people
  • A caregiving crisis as our aging population lives longer and aging in the home is the only financial alternative
  • More than 50% of households 55+ have no retirement savings
  • The baby boom generation is putting their own retirement and health at risk to support multiple generations of family members.

51% of the population will live on Social Security alone in retirement, per the Government Accounting Office. No savings. No pension. If this calls up Dickensian images of ghettos of aging people then you are getting the picture.

And speaking of Social Security, why isn’t anyone talking about raising the age to receive benefits? When Social Security was enacted, life expectancy was 62 years old – today it is nearly 80. Not addressing the gift of increasing longevity and its consequences will put an unimaginable burden on the generations behind us.

The emerging Caregiving Crisis. There are 43.5 million adults providing unpaid care to family members in America. 34.2 million of those are caring for someone over the age of 50. These are parents, in-laws and spouses who require high levels of care every day. For working boomers, this is like a second job that requires 20 – 40 hours each week. This juggling act creates tremendous stress and puts their own health, emotional and physical, and finances at risk.

Who will take care of the Boomers? In 2010, the ratio of caregivers to care recipients was 7:1; in 2030 it will be 4:1. The 80+ population will increase by 44% between 2030 and 2040. The number of available caregivers will only increase by 10%, and that availability completely bottoms out in the 2040’s as we Boomers reach old, old age.

chart

Our aging is both an opportunity and risk for this country. We have to engage with our chosen politicians to make sure our needs and concerns are on the agenda for this country. And we have to make sure our legacy is not a crashing age wave of destruction. We can learn from the enthusiasm of our millennial generation and make our voices heard.

By Lori K. Bitter

Sponsored by Willow Valley Communities

Learn more about The Grandparent Economy, “How Baby Boomers Are Bridging the Generation Gap”,  by reading Lori’s new book. Click on the book for purchase information.

Grandparent book

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2 Responses to Boomers & Politics

  1. Dregan says:

    Lori,
    I stumbled upon your article promoting many issues confronting our social enterprise. I read your article and learned that you hit many issues that encompass our aging US consumers. I work closely with many who are facing new challenges. The baby boomers are paving the way as well as our federal to state programs dictating the direction of the financial support one encounters. A new new enterprise and in an age of complacency. Love you for beinging to light reality!

    • Lori Bitter says:

      Dregan,
      I’m glad you found the article and the issues to be in-line with what you are seeing in your work. Even as we wind up the second of our conventions this week, I am not hearing anything that changes my point of view on their platforms. Thank you for reading!

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