On Tuesday, the American people will elect the president of the United States, and unless you can see into the future, it’s impossible to know for sure who that will be.
We can narrow it down to one of two, but even polls can’t predict who will emerge to serve from the Oval Office for the next four years. What we do know about the future of the U.S. is that the candidate’s constituents are aging, and issues and challenges surrounding an aged population continue to expand.
What future candidates need to know
Currently, there are more middle-aged Americans than younger ones, and by 2034, the population of seniors 65 and older will reach 77 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
One issue that political candidates always seem to address is Medicare. Somehow, candidates and voters are able to connect the dots in this one instance regarding an aging population. However, other issues will affect the quality of life for seniors now and into the future. We should be talking about those matters, too. The subject of caregiving is one of them.
In 2017, 41 million familial caregivers provided an average of 34 billion hours of care for loved ones, according to a 2019 report by the AARP Public Policy Institute. This translates to nearly $470 billion dollars that the government would possibly shell out were it not for the contribution of family caregivers.
What we need to remember is that caregivers are also aging. Who will care for those masses when the time arrives?
More than Medicare
Yes, Medicare affects millions of Americans, both now and into the future. But politicians have to go further in their conversation to acknowledge and address the desperate need for policies that will enhance the quality of life for seniors, through a partnership with community-based and governmentally backed agencies and resources. The future demands it, and we can’t wait until we get there to figure it out.
Right now, more than 5 million people 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease, which along with other dementias is costing the country more than $300 billion this year alone, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. By 2050, that cost is projected to increase to more than $1 trillion.
The country needs infrastructure that leads to beneficial strategies to support the aged. Local, state, and federal governments must consider how to approach public health as it relates to an aging population, and develop practical solutions for housing and transportation, as well as workable regulations for those in assisted living facilities.
Assisting the volunteer sector
Social isolation isn’t a new problem for aging individuals, but it has come to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic. The elderly have suffered and are suffering. Unable to visit with family members, the aged in nursing facilities or isolated in their homes are losing ground physically and cognitively. National disasters and health crises demand planning for the elderly.
Sectors of volunteers in communities across the United States strive to help as local, state, and federal governments encourage neighbors to check on the elderly during times of crisis. This is good, but we can’t completely assign responsibility to the volunteer sector. Volunteers and neighbors have limited resources and capabilities. Who do they turn to should they meet an obstacle that is beyond their abilities?
Policies to support caregiving
Are there systems in place to meet a growing need, the consequences of which could be devastating for our country as it continues to age?
For instance, public policy regarding the aged and the current pandemic is wanting. A University of Pittsburgh survey of caregivers during the pandemic concluded that, “Family caregivers should receive increased support and assistance during this serious public health crisis.” Yes, but how?
I don’t know how future candidates will handle health crises, especially regarding the elderly and caregiving. However, this and other issues must be met with sound policies and a strong infrastructure. Smarter individuals than me choose to run for local and federal offices. Before they face the challenges head-on, they must acknowledge the need. Medicare is only the first step in an ongoing conversation that addresses the aging population.
Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.
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