How seniors and their caregivers are faring during the current American economic downturn.
This year, America's baby boomers - 78 million people in all - begin turning 65 and this growing demographic wave threatens to cripple our financial and health care systems and significantly burden future generations.
To better understand the implications of this looming crisis, Volunteers of America commissioned a nationwide survey with Lake Research and American Viewpoint into how the elderly and their caregivers are faring during the economic downturn. The survey found that the majority of Americans significantly underestimate the amount of savings they will need to finance their future long-term care needs, and that caregivers are sacrificing their own financial futures to help care for older loved ones.
A new white paper on the survey findings, titled "Boomer Bust 2011: Still Unprepared and Unaware," has now been released and is available at www.volunteersofamerica.org.
Volunteers of America, one of the nation's largest providers of affordable senior housing and services to the elderly, identified four primary challenge areas faced by aging women and their caretakers: finances, desire for independence, workplace flexibility and lack of preparation.
"We need to address this looming potential catastrophe," said Volunteers of America National President Mike King. "This will be the largest senior population in U.S. history and will almost double the prior numbers of seniors."
King continued, "As our report states, preparation must occur on more than just the personal level. Local, state and federal governments must begin to make changes now to help current caregivers and future retirees so that the impending wave of 78 million baby boomers does not wipe out the finances of future generations."
Survey respondents wanted to see a way for individuals to access Medicaid services without being forced to spend personal assets all the way down to poverty levels in order to qualify. This could be done through an expansion of state public/private partnerships that shield a set amount of personal funds through the purchase of approved long-term care insurance policies.
The report suggests that the unmet needs of caregivers should become a priority for policymakers. "There is too great a cost on the family level and on the national economic level as a whole. This is no longer an issue that can be pushed along to future Congresses. Baby boomers began turning 65 this year and the nation is not ready for their future care needs or costs."
Other survey findings included in the newly-released white paper:
40% of survey respondents are worried about saving enough for their own retirement, but they are not clear on the true costs and there is a lack of excess income to put toward future goals.
On the whole, things have not changed for women in regards to serving as the primary hands-on caregiver for a parent, in-law, spouse or other loved one who needed care. In addition, most women surveyed who are not currently caregivers expect they will be providing care at some time in the future.
Survey respondents supported policies that would allow seniors to remain in their own homes for as long as possible and receive care in home- and community-based settings.
Respondents also felt that caregivers should be paid by Medicare and Medicaid for the services they provide in order to allow them to continue saving and meet their current financial and future retirements.
About Volunteers of America - Volunteers of America is a national, nonprofit, faith-based organization dedicated to helping those in need live healthy, safe and productive lives. Since 1896, our ministry of service has supported and empowered America's most vulnerable groups, including seniors, people with disabilities, at-risk youth, men and women returning from prison, homeless individuals and families, those recovering from addictions and many others. Through hundreds of human service programs, including housing and health care, Volunteers of America helps more than 2 million people in over 400 communities. We offer a variety of services for older Americans, in particular, that allow them to maintain their independence and quality of life - everything from an occasional helping hand to full-time care. Our work touches the mind, body, heart and ultimately the spirit of those we serve, integrating our deep compassion with highly effective programs and services. For more information about Volunteers of America, visit www.VolunteersofAmerica.org