The need for long-term care will increase dramatically in the future - unless it doesn't

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John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News
John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News
How will demand for long-term care services change in the years to come? Two related reports provide very different answers to this central question.

Let's deal with the bursting-at-the-seams scenario first. According to Aging and the Macroeconomy: Long-Term Implications of an Older Population, there will be growth, and it will not be good.

The study points out how the nation's growing senior population will place unprecedented strains on the economy. The major reason why is that two-thirds of seniors have not saved enough money for retirement, authors caution. Who would have guessed that the Greatest Generation would be followed by the Freeloader Generation?

"We strongly believe that our nation needs to act sooner rather than later," said report co-author Ronald Lee, Ph.D., a University of California professor of demography and economics. The National Institute on Aging helped fund the report.

Not so fast, counters a competing study that will soon be published in the journal Social Science Quarterly.

What if actuaries and others who look at aging demographics have overstated how many seniors will actually live to a ripe old age? The tendency among baby boomers to overeat, get cancer and off themselves might greatly cull the herd, these investigators conclude.

The study, led by Rice University professor Justin Denney, concludes that it would be a mistake to project the longevity gains of the last century throughout this one.

 Denney notes there was a "huge increase" of 30 years in U.S. life expectancy from 1900 to the 2000s. But he and fellow researchers see a mere three-year increase over the next half-century. While the wealthier among us may count on living longer, poor people are not likely to fare as well.

So there you have it: We either will or will not experience a massive influx of aging seniors. Please plan accordingly.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.

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