Yesterday, as part of the Global Attitudes Project, Pew Research released the results of a global study done to find out people’s attitude on aging. The project is entitled, “Attitudes About Aging: A Global Perspective.”
Overall, this report is fascinating. It goes in-depth to discuss these and other findings. The report also unearths some interesting ideas about people’s view on who should care for the elderly and how that affects the outlook for their own futures, how immigration impacts the age of population and many other interesting bits of information. You should definitely read it for yourself.
We don’t want to hash through every point made by the study. Rather, we’d like to just highlight two items that we found interesting and disturbing.
Is aging a major problem?
People across the globe in 21 countries were asked if aging was a problem in their country and the results are a little alarming.
Almost half of people surveyed in five countries say aging is a major problem. These countries include Japan, Germany, Spain, South Korea and China. The latter two countries will have the largest population over 65 by 2050.
Most concerning is what the survey says is the opinion of Americans. According to the findings, when Americans were asked if aging was a problem in our country, only 26% believe it is a major problem.
This viewpoint is a startling contrast to the information that has been reported over the past several years that clearly shows how the number of people over 65 years old would grow from 13.1% in 2010 to an unprecedented 21.4% by 2050.
This means that by 2050, nearly one in four Americans (25%) will be over the age of 65.
[insert population chart]
Who is responsible for the elderly?
Globally, the majority of people do not believe that the elderly should be primarily responsible for their own economic well-being. And, that elderly care should mainly be the responsibility of the family.
However, in the U.S., more people (one in four) say that elderly people should be responsible for themselves. (Those surveyed in Germany and Britain seem to agree with them.)
What this says to us
If this information is true; if it really does represent the opinions of Americans, then there are two things that could be derived from these results. (Neither of them are positive.)
1. Americans are in denial that the aging population will affect the country or their communities in a detrimental way.
2. Americans, by and large, are not willing to accept responsibility for our elderly or their care.
This is not a show of disrespect to the people who hold these opinions. We are all entitled to believe what we want. However, it is concerning that people don’t understand what these statistics imply or have any idea the effect the aging population will have on communities across the nation.
The reality is more grim
The reality is that the infrastructure is just not there to support this many elderly people.
- There won’t be enough care providers such as doctors, nurses, geriatric care managers, specialists and other caregivers or facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes or even hospice.
- There won’t be enough agencies, organizations or staff to coordinate and manage everything that will have to be done.
- There won’t be enough places for older people to live while they need some level of assistance but not continuous care such as assisted living, villages, NORC’s or other communal living.
- There aren’t enough service providers in each city and town across the nation to provide the services they will need. Not to mention, be able to provide at the individuals home of choice including transportation, home maintenance, meal delivery, lawn service, legal.
- Most importantly, there won’t be enough money, private or public, to supply even close to what will be needed.
The list goes on and gets very overwhelming if you think about it too long. However, that’s actually what I would like to suggest. We all need to think about it.
We need change and we need it now
Yes, we need people taking responsibility for their own futures. But, this problem is bigger than the individual; it is going to take all of us. Given how slow things move at the government and how slowly funding comes to communities, it is going to take a grass-roots movement. We can help shape a future for many of our elderly that is better and can improve the aging experience for future generations.
This isn’t about the faceless numbers; it’s about our families, friends and neighbors. It’s about you. It’s about me.
We can be better than this. We are better than this.
Some people may take that as a challenge.
We hope you’re one of them.