Health

Baby Boomers Are Fatter Than Ever: Who Will Take Care of Them?

FILE- In this file photo dated Tuesday, June 26, 2012, two overweight women hold a conversation in New York, USA. Almost a third of the world population is now fat, and no country has been able to curb obesity rates in the last three decades, according to a new global analysis released Thursday May 29, 2014, led by Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, USA, and paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Researchers reviewed more than 1,700 studies covering 188 countries covering over three decades and found more than 2 billion people worldwide classified as overweight or obese. The highest rates of obesity were found in the Middle East and North Africa, with the U.S. having about 13 percent of the world’s fat population. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, FILE)
In this file photo dated Tuesday, June 26, 2012, two overweight women hold a conversation in New York, USA. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, FILE

Here’s an alarming statistic: Over 72 percent of older men and 67 percent of older women are now overweight or obese, which significantly increases their risk for developing chronic disease, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau. What’s even more alarming in the report released this week is that the majority of the quickly aging boomer generation can’t afford long-term health care and have few people to take care of them.

The economic, social and health trends of the population aged 65 and older were highlighted in the report, which found that the proportion of obese and overweight people is increasing among the older population. This is particularly concerning since extra weight puts them at risk for chronic health problems such as type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which the report says are the first and sixth most common causes of death among the elderly.

The front-end of the Baby Boomers, those people born between 1946 and 1964, started turning 65 (the Census Bureaus’ definition of old) in 2011. As they continue to age, the older population is expected to more than double from 40.1 million in 2010 to 83.7 million in 2050, putting a huge burden on families and the health care industry.

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Traditionally, the majority of long-term care provided to the elderly has come from informal caregivers like friends and family. In 2007, between 3.8 and 4.9 million elderly Americans recieved informal care compared to the 1.5 million that recieved care from a nursing home, according to the report. But Baby Boomers had fewer children than their parents and by 2030, there will be just three working-age Americans for every older person.

So, who’s going to take care of our sick, aging boomers?

Not their spouses. With a divorce rate of over 50 percent, boomers have the highest divorce rate of any generation. They’re also more likely to live alone than previous generations, according to the report.

Not nursing homes. The average cost of a nursing home was $83, 585 a year in 2010. At that price, two-thirds of older people can’t afford to live in a nursing home for even a year, and only one-fifth can afford it for more than three years.

Medicare? Probably not. Medicare funded 18 percent of professional long-term care in 2006, according to the report, but as the ratio of the elderly population to the working age population increases this likely won’t be sustainable. As more and more boomers begin to qualify for Medicare, the program’s funds will become increasingly strained.

Technology? Perhaps. The report noted that as the Baby Boomers age there will likely be an increased demand for medical technology that can help improve their health and allow them to live independently.

The truth is, the answer isn’t quite clear. The report’s findings reiterate the importance for health policy makers to develop a plan for this aging population.

While the health statistics revealed in the report are concerning, the boomers’ situation isn’t all bad. Here are some other highlights:

- Smoking and drinking rates are down among the 65 and older population.

- The recession impacted workers aged 65 and older the least out of all other age groups. They were the only age group not to see a decline in employment between 2005 and 2010.

- The West and South regions experienced the fastest growth in their 65 and older populations between 2000 and 2010.

- 11 states had more than 1 million people aged 65 and older in 2010.

- The population aged 65 and older was the only age group to see an increase in voter participation in the 2012 election.

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