The Silver Tsunami of Aging Workers
January 28, 2019
The baby boomers are aging the United States’ population at an unprecedented rate. Some are calling it the Silver Tsunami. Approximately 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day and, by 2050, there will be over 88 million Americans over the age of 65. While many are aware of the country’s changing composition, have you considered the impact on American employers?
Out of financial necessity, many baby boomers will keep working past traditional retirement ages, relying on their employer’s sponsored coverage. Consequently, employers need to adapt to the health care challenges of these older employees, who are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Older adults are also more vulnerable to have broken bones from falls, to contract pneumonia, to have limitations on their daily physical activities, and to need more prescription medications. From a care delivery perspective, older Americans will use more ambulatory care, hospital services, nursing home services, and home health care services to manage their chronic health needs compared to younger patients.
Additionally, as family members and loved ones increasingly assume caregiving responsibilities, employers need to take caregiving needs into consideration. A study published last week by Harvard Business School researchers finds that “employers underestimate, to their detriment, the struggle their employees face in balancing their professional and caregiving responsibility.” The study finds nearly 75% of U.S. workers manage some kind of caregiving responsibility that impacts employee productivity and professional performance, as well as their mental health and well-being. The HBS study cites the value of this unpaid care work in the US at $470 billion as of 2013- dubbing caregiving a massive informal economy.
Employers need new strategies to combat these complexities. To proactively manage this “caregiving crisis,” companies should consider innovative care taker benefits such as emergency backup adult care, geriatric assessments, social workers to assist with adult day-care programs, and assistance with legal, financial and emotional counseling. Employers also need to think through strategies that address the challenges of their new workforce. For example, check out CPR’s toolkit on Palliative Care, created in collaboration with the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC), to understand how palliative care benefits can help individuals with serious illnesses and their caregivers – improving quality of life and saving costs along the way.
The bottom line is, being proactive in addressing these needs and their increasing prevalence will help your workforce and your health care spending in the long run. We are not getting any younger.