There was an excellent article in Sunday’s New York Times called “The Financial Time Bomb of Longer Lives.” Having mom live with me has made me much more aware — and concerned — about the public policy implications of our growing senior population.
As the article by Natasha Singer points out, we’re living longer, healthier lives than ever before. That’s the good news. The bad news is we have an unsustainable system in place that pays for entitlement programs such as government-sponsored pension plans, health care, and long-term care. And the article gives a perfect example of this contradiction: As people age, a growing number live with dementia, “whose treatment is expected to cost $604 billion worldwide this year.” Ouch.
The article talks about what needs to be done from a global perspective. The first thing that needs to change is cultural … we need to value seniors instead of viewing them as a drain. Governments need to look at job training and re-education programs for seniors, with possible bonuses to seniors who work until they are 70. Corporations and businesses need to consider flexible work hours and telecommuting. And all of us need to consider that living longer requires us to make some personal sacrifices, such as paying a larger share of our health care bills, saving more money, and rewarding (instead of punishing) elected officials who work toward reform for the greater good.
All we need to do is look at Greece, Ireland, Spain and France, countries that are all grappling with aging populations.
We all love our families and want the best for them. But the time has come for all of us to realize that the future is going to look different due to changing demographics. And the time to deal with it is now, not later.