Brandenburg: Aging population expansion will challenge all of us

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Aging is inevitable. Like other transitions in life, changes can be physical, psychosocial and mental. Understanding the differences between those changes can assist in making an early plan to deal with them.

The aging of the population can be an irreversible trend with far-reaching social, political and economic effects.

Statistical projections show by 2050, the number of people age 60-plus will double. That growth will expose our society to various challenges. The difficulties communities with expanding elderly populations face include fiscal and economic stability.

For example, the government continually spends on health care, pensions and other social benefits for aging individuals. Going forward, this spending on a larger population could restrain the overall economic growth of society as governments will likely be forced to divert funds from other projects, such as infrastructure, to finance those programs.

High public spending on senior programs could limit commercial opportunities, too.

Without proper preparation, our society faces an extreme shortage of valuable occupations such as engineers, teachers and nurses as workers enter retirement.

To put things in perspective, as we get older, we hope our lives get easier. We anticipate retirement as the time in our lives when we can finally relax. But while the golden years can be some of the best years of our lives, there are always concerns.

The challenges facing seniors will become universal to all ages. Cities, counties, states and the federal government will have to develop long-term solutions that don’t include raising taxes.

Cost-driver challenges
There are seven key cost-driver challenges for communities. Our elected representatives need to seriously think about how best to resolve these issues. One way or another, they will become issues for everyone.

  • Health care costs – As people age, more health care is needed. Fixed incomes and Medicare or supplemental insurance won’t keep up with rising costs.
  • Disease – Alzheimer’s and dementia are primary health issues that threaten a person’s day-to-day capabilities.
  • Physical aging – With aging comes the loss of the ability to move as quickly, a loss of vision and weakening of the bones.
  • Physical assistance – Getting groceries, doctor’s visits and small tasks like cleaning the house become more difficult. Daily assistance or a home-care provider may be needed.
  • Financial security – The rising cost of living on a fixed income poses new financial restrictions.
  • Transportation – Reflexes can slow as people age, and they may need to give up driving for safety reasons.
  • Changing social climate – Adjusting to technological changes is probably the largest social hurdle seniors face. Newer computers and Artificial Intelligence without community-based programs will be a major challenge.

 

Al Brandenburg is a member of Maricopa Community Advocates. 

This column was first published in the August edition of InMaricopa magazine.