By Rita R. Robison
The baby boomers are coming.
It’s no secret that the increasing number of boomers is changing everything about retirement.
While boomers are looking at new ways to retire and government agencies and the health care industry are struggling to get ready, some trends are worth looking at as we make plans for a workable and graceful retirement.
Today, older Americans enjoy longer lives and better physical function than did previous generations. However, for some, an increased burden in housing costs and rising obesity may compromise these gains.
These are the findings of a federal report, “Older Americans 2012: Key Indicators of Well-Being,” which tracks trends to see how older people are faring as the U.S. population grows older.
The reports points out what we already know. As boomers age, there will be many more older adults:
In 2010, 40 million people age 65 and older make up 13 percent of the population in the United States.
In 2030, the number and proportion of older Americans is expected to grow significantly – to 72 million, about 20 percent of the population.
In the report, 37 key indicators are grouped into five categories – population, economics, health status, health risks and behaviors, and health care. The Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics prepared the report.
Trends in the report predict what’s in store for boomers:
- More older women work – It’s likely that more boomer women will be working in “retirement.” Some older Americans work for economic reasons. Others like the social contact, intellectual challenges, or sense of value that work provides. The report shows that the number of older women in the labor force has increased significantly over the past 40 years. In 1963, 29 percent of women aged 62-64 worked outside the home. In 2011, it increased to 45 percent. In 1963, 17 percent of women aged 65-69 were in the labor force. In 2011, it increased to 27 percent. For women 70 and older, 6 percent worked in 1963, increasing to 8 percent in 2011.
- Slight declines in poverty, increases in income for some since 1974 – Some boomers may have more money in retirement than their parents. The report indicates that older Americans are in better economic shape now than they were in 1974. Between 1974 and 2010, the proportion of older people with income below the poverty thresholds – less than $10,458 in 2010 for a person 65 and older – fell from 15 percent to 9 percent. The percentage with low income – between $10,458 and $20,916 in 2010 for people 65 and older – dropped from 35 percent to 26 percent. Gains also were seen in income over the period, as the proportion of people 65 and older with high income – $41,832 and above in 2010 – rose from 18 percent to 31 percent.
- Increased housing problems – Boomers may have problems meeting housing costs. The report shows the most significant issue for older adults is housing costs, which has been steadily increasing. In 1985, about 30 percent of households with householders or spouses age 65 and over spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing and utilities. By 2009, the proportion of older people with high housing costs reached 40 percent. For some multigenerational households, crowded housing is also fairly common.
- Rising rates of obesity – Obese boomers are likely to have more health problems and earlier deaths. The report points out that obesity, a major cause of preventable disease and premature death, is increasing among older people. In 2009-2010, 38 percent of people age 65 and over were obese, compared with 22 percent in 1988-1994. In 2009-2010, 44 percent of people age 65-74 were obese, as were 29 percent of those age 75 and older.
- More use of hospice – Boomers are more likely to be using hospice services. The report indicates the percentage of older people who received hospice care in the last 30 days of life increased from 19 percent in 1999 to 43 percent in 2009. The percentage of older Americans who died in hospitals dropped from 49 percent in 1999 to 32 percent in 2009. The percentage who died at home increased from 15 percent in 1999 to 24 percent in 2009.
So, while government agencies and the health care industry need to step up their efforts to be ready for boomers, boomers, too, need to accurately access their retirement needs and increase their efforts to be ready financially and emotionally.