Millions of older Americans suffer from persistent loneliness – 32 percent of people ages 60 through 69 and 25 percent of those age 70 and older reportedly feel lonely.
Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Living Arrangements of Adults 65+ in 2016
Federal and state government support is channeled, to a large extent, through community organizations, which play a vital role in helping older adults to live independently and age in place. However, funds have not kept pace with the needs of the growing aging population. In light of tenuous funding, organizations supporting the aging are seeking supplemental resources for survival.
The federal funds allocation rose minimally from USD 1.80 billion in FY 2004 to USD 1.88 billion in FY 2014, while the population of people ages 65 and older grew by nearly 30 percent over the same period.
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) and Meals on Wheels America
Recognizing the myriad risks associated with loneliness and social isolation, organizations such as the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), which has 622 area agencies that provide a range of services such as meals, rides, home visits and care services, seek to mitigate the adverse impacts of isolation. One long-lasting and effective program is Meals on Wheels America, which runs through a network of 5,000 independently run local programs delivering daily meals to isolated and vulnerable older adults.
Older Americans tend to be more active in the labor market than counterparts in most OECD countries.
The labor force participation rate of people age 65 and older in the U.S. was 18.9 percent as of 2015, more than one-third higher than the OECD average.
U.S. Labor Participation Rate by Age Group
While Americans are working longer, a looming wave of retiring baby boomers and an impending skills gap have policymakers and management across economic sectors looking at ways to phase retirement, extend productive potential, and pass on institutional knowledge to the next generation. However, age discrimination and a lack of familiarity with new technology, among other issues, remain barriers to employment.
It is estimated that 2.7 million jobs are likely to be needed due to retirement within the existing labor force, while more than 700,000 new jobs will be created from economic growth.
“Minor tweaks could make the social security system more flexible and create incentives for seniors to work longer. For example, if people want to stop working for a little while to obtain training they shouldn’t lose credits.”
– Jim Emerman, Executive Vice President, Encore
Adoption of Digital Technology As of 2015
Percentage of Population of Each Group
Between 2000 and 2015, the percentage of people age 65 and older who use the Internet more than quadrupled. As a result, the difference in the Internet-penetration rate between people age 65 and older and those age 18 and older shrank by nearly one-third.
High-Tech Innovation for the Aging – Hot Topic at SXSW
In an effort to capitalize on the demographic shift and the associated market opportunities, a range of start-up companies are developing solutions specifically targeting the aging population. New tech-based solutions and applications that specifically target the aging were on display at the 2017 South by Southwest conference showcasing cutting-edge technologies, with companies launching a range of safety, security, and communications tools for older adults. However, the vast majority of older adults still need assistance with understanding and utilizing these technologies, and a range of service organizations are developing tech-related education and training programs to help older adults effectively leverage these new technologies to enhance their quality of life.
U.S. per capita healthcare spending is the highest in the world, more than twice the average of other developed countries. Yet, Americans have lower life expectancies and higher rates of chronic illnesses than OECD counterparts.
Source: OECD Statistics, 2016
Healthcare Costs Per Capita (USD)
Given the cost of facilities and the loss of independence, among other factors, older Americans tend to prefer to age in place. Demand for home health care support is increasing and is expected to be one of the fastest-growing sectors in terms of job creation.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.3 million new jobs in the home healthcare field are expected to be created through 2020 – a 69 percent growth rate, compared with an average 14 percent across other sectors.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Go4Life Campaign are Turning Attention on Prevention
The NIH and the Go4Life Campaign are fostering the integration of physical exercise into the lives of older adults. As of 2015, the Go4Life campaign had developed more than 250 public and private partners, many of whom host Go4Life monthly activities – including endurance, strength, balance, flexibility exercises, and promotion of healthy lifestyles. Not only do these types of public-private partnerships expand the reach of services, they are not completely reliant on government dollars and are less vulnerable to funding cuts.