Baby boomers will start reaching retirement age in 2011. With 10 million of them in Canada (30% of the total population), they’ll make a significant impact in their senior years, as they have at every phase of their lives.
What kind of a difference will Baby Boomers make for senior care?
First, consider the general characteristics of baby boomers. They’re:
- Independent and self-reliant, having grown up in a time of change, challenging the status quo
- Expected to live longer than previous generations
- Health conscious and physically active
- Accustomed to technology, having grown up in a time of non-stop technological change
Because they are independent by nature, baby boomers are likely to look for alternatives to traditional facility-based senior care. In fact, many of the baby boomers now caring for their aging parents have discovered in-home care. Many are providing at least some of the caregiving themselves, relying on professional caregivers for the rest, as they help their mothers and fathers “age in place” in the comfort of their own homes.
A 2006 study at the University of Southern California’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology reports that baby boomers are more committed to caring for their parents than were their own mothers and fathers. (This research followed two generations of 333 families in the USC Longitudinal Study of Generations.)
As they help their parents, baby boomers are seeing the advantages of aging at home and thus may be more likely to choose in-home care for themselves when the time comes.
However, baby boomers may not be as fortunate as their parents to have children to care for them. A result of their independent nature, many baby boomers have never married and as a whole have had fewer children. For instance, the Urban Institute reported in 2007 (“Meeting the Long-Term Care Needs of the Baby Boomers: How Changing Families Will Affect Paid Helpers and Institutions”) that women born between 1956 and 1960 had only 1.9 children on average, compared with 3.2 children for women born between 1931 and 1935. And between 1980 and 1998, the portion of women ages 40 to 44 without children almost doubled, to 19 percent.
This means baby boomers will have to rely more on professional in-home caregivers, since they may not have family caregivers available.
Baby boomers will be ideal candidates for in-home care because they have pursued active lifestyles and preventive health practices—and are likely to enjoy better health than previous generations of seniors.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, baby boomers will age more slowly due to healthful habits that have contributed to such indicators as 60 and 70 percent drops since 1950 in the death rates for heart disease and stroke, respectively. Further, the cancer death rate has declined 10 percent since 1990.
Baby boomers will particularly feel at home with in-home care like Comfort Keepers’ Interactive Caregiving, which builds on seniors’ life-long activities and interests, helping them stay engaged in physical, mental and social pursuits that heighten their quality of life.
In-home care technology will further aid in making in-home care the ideal senior care solution for the baby boom generation. Throughout their lives, baby boomers have been faithful adopters of the latest gadgets that have come along to make life better. Plus, in-home care technologies can help bridge the family caregiver gap for those boomers who don’t have children.
These technologies, which are continually being developed and improved, monitor seniors’ movements and vital signs and can alert help in emergencies when caregives aren’t present in the home. Other examples include medication management systems, which remind seniors to take their medicine as prescribed, and GPS tracking devices that help locate a senior who has become lost.
So, just as they have throughout life, baby boomers will make their own distinctive mark on senior care – and in a big way.