America’s biggest demographic challenges might be posed not by the very young, but by the very old.
In 1900, according to the U.S. Census, just 122,000 Americans were age 85 and older. Today, it’s 6.1 million.
Americans 85-plus now account for about 13 percent of all Americans over age 65, and more than 1 in 4 seniors (26 percent) are now over age 80. By 2050, says the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the number of Americans over age 85 is expected to reach 19 million nationwide.
Millennials may continue to grab the demographic limelight – they’re now officiallythe largest generation in U.S. history – but the rapidly-growing cohort of very old Americans demands as much attention, if not much more concern. Particularly worrisome: The exploding cost of long-term care.
Here’s a simple but stunning fact: Public policy has made no provision to finance the growing long-term care needs of aging Americans in a fiscally sustainable way. In fact, a bipartisan commission convened by Congress in 2013 failed to agree on a viable solution to pay for Americans’ increasing long-term care needs. The result: A looming social and economic crisis that threatens both middle-class finances and well-being.