You’d have to be part ostrich to be unconcerned about America’s safety net for the very elderly. If you don’t count yourselves among that oblivious group, consider just a few of the U.S. Census Bureau’s projections.
This, for example: Today, roughly 15 % of Americans, about 49.2 million, are over the age of 65. By 2060, that number is expected to climb to 23%, and to describe 94.7 million Americans.
Imagine that. Nearly one in four citizens tapping into the Social Security “fund” they’ve been paying into their entire working lives. (Apparently there really is no fund; our politicians have been spending every cent the moment it comes in. But let’s pretend.) Nearly one in four citizens signing up for Medicare. And a big chunk of this population requiring skilled-nursing care of the sort offered today by America’s nursing homes.
One in four. And the under-65 crowd will have to support them. If literally everyone is working by then, that would mean three workers supporting not only their own families and futures, but also providing substantial support to every elderly person. And not every American works at a paying job. What will the ratios be by 2060? Two workers per elderly person? Or perhaps just one?
My primary concern is the nursing-home population—those who cannot possibly fend for themselves. This will include many of you who are now in your 40s and 50s. What will happen to you when the money runs out?
Young families taking granny in is largely a thing of the past. Oh, it still happens now and then. But in the first place, this assumes old folks who had children; and if declining birth rates in the western world are any indication, it seems that “living with the kids” is destined to become less and less of an option for the aging. It also assumes children willing and able to take care of their parents at home, whatever disabilities might be involved. Good luck on that score.
So what’s the solution?
We’re already seeing some gasp-worthy possibilities unfolding in Europe.
There’s the old “send ‘em to cheaper regions” ploy. Over the last decade, Germany has already begun making a name for itself in this area. Eastern European destinations are not so bad, since a child could perhaps jump on a train to visit mom or dad over a long weekend. More concerning are the homes in regions like southeast Asia; visiting an institutionalized parent in a country like Thailand would require plenty of vacation time and ready cash, and it would be almost impossible for a child to monitor the quality of care being provided day in, day out.
And then there are those pioneers in The Netherlands. First it was assisted suicide. And now? Euthanasia, of course! The thinking seems to go something like this: We put our pets to sleep when they’re suffering, or sometimes even when they become too messy for our pristine homes. So why not the elderly?
And isn’t this romantic? In Holland, you can now be euthanized with your partner. As a recent report put it, “Joint suicides by elderly couples used to be considered a tragedy. In the Netherlands, doctors killing elderly couples together is considered a medical treatment.”
I have no idea what the solution might be to this impending eldercare crisis. It might even be too late to do anything about it. But it does seem like we should be talking about it, at least as fervently as we do the question of climate change.
Fortunately, nothing in this world is forever. This life is just a blink of an eye. And for those who’ve repented and trusted in Jesus Christ, there’s a joyful eternity to look forward to, with no worries, no tears, no distress of any kind.
If you’d like to join that happy throng, I hope you’ll begin seeking your Creator today. Here’s a good place to begin.