The 2020s are the decade of the baby boomer

An older man jogs up a desert mountain peak in California. (Photo: Sirtravelalot, via Shutterstock)

“OK Boomer” has gained popularity as a sarcastic refrain, but if millennials and all other generations fail to take baby boomers seriously, we will all share in the consequences.

The 2020s will be the decade of the baby boomer. Within the next ten years, all of the nation’s 74 million baby boomers – those born between 1946 to 1964 – will be 65 or older. For the first time in US history, our population of older adults will surpass the number of children age 13 and under.

By 2030, California’s older adult population is expected to grow more than twice as fast as the total population, increasing by four million people.

While this demographic shift is marked by longer life expectancies and higher qualities of life, there will be inherent challenges to the changing balance between the young and old.

For instance, 70 percent of baby boomers will need some form of long-term care in their lifetime. To meet the rising demand for quality care, the nation will need to produce 2.5 million caregivers by 2030 to curb costs and provide access.

Our ability to prepare for the rising needs of older adults will be crucial in the next decade.

With the fastest growing share of the nation’s older adult population, California’s next decade will be marked by its ability to create the necessary infrastructure to meet the unique needs of baby boomers and the aging generations following closely behind.

By 2030, California’s older adult population is expected to grow more than twice as fast as the total population, increasing by four million people.

The challenges of an aging population are already visible throughout the state.

One in five older adults lives in poverty – the highest proportion in the nation. Retirement income, along with Social Security and Supplemental Security Income, have not kept up with the cost of living, while the lack of affordable senior housing and the shortage of caregivers makes it difficult for older Californians to maintain housing and to access care.

Left without many options, older Californians are relying on their extended families for assistance. The caregiving burden often falls on spouses or adult children, especially daughters. Already, 50 percent of Californians provide some form of caregiving.

As a leader in many critical policy areas, such as climate change and criminal justice reform, California can lead too in building an age-friendly state.

And state leaders are taking action. This week, policymakers and providers of senior living and care will come together in Sacramento at LeadingAge California’s annual RISE Summit to discuss ways to better prepare for California’s changing demographics.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has already taken bold steps to build a more age friendly state through an executive order calling for a Master Plan for Aging and progress is being made to steer our state’s efforts to better serve older adults.

As a member of the Governor’s Master Plan for Aging Stakeholder Advisory Committee, LeadingAge California has joined others in the aging and disability community to identify opportunities to build affordable senior housing, grow the caregiver workforce and provide low-cost long-term services and supports.

Once the Master Plan for Aging is complete in October, all Californians will need to work together to carry out the recommendations. By doing so, California can lead in making the 2020s the decade boomers and all generations can age with dignity.

Editor’s Note: Jeannee Parker Martin is the president and CEO of LeadingAge California, founded in 1961, which advocates for quality, nonprofit senior living and health care. 

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