Baby boomers are those people born worldwide between 1946 and 1964, the time frame most commonly used to define them. The first baby boomers reached the standard retirement age of 65 in 2011. There are about 76 million boomers in the U.S. , representing about 29 percent of the population.
Baby Boomers have always had an outsize presence compared with other generations. They peaked at 78.8 million in 1999 and have remained the largest living adult generation. There were an estimated 74.1 million Boomers in 2016. By mid-century, the Boomer population is projected to dwindle to 16.6 million.
The years 1946 to 1964 define the post-war baby boomer generation, when the United States saw a spike in its birth rate. The American economy flourished and supported larger families, advances in technology made it easier to share ideas and culture, and space exploration took off. But the boomers’ era was also marked by great unrest. Americans born during this period were shaped by a world ravaged by a World War that included unimaginable mass genocide and the atom bomb. The hypocrisy of American freedom and democracy was exposed by African-Americans who stood up against shameful racial injustice and inequality. And just as boomers were coming of age into adulthood, drafts for the Vietnam War began.
A Growing American Crisis: Who Will Care for the Baby Boomers?
America is not prepared for this coming shortage. Congress and the White House have kicked the can down the road, effectively waiting for the issue to become a crisis before they deal with it. But caring for America’s elders is the single most expensive domestic priority on the horizon, breaking the projected budgets of both Medicare and Medicaid, all 50 states and most of the middle class, and the truth is, no one is truly prepared for what is to come.
For those who haven’t yet dealt with this problem, here are the ground rules confronted by any elder caregiver. First, Medicare does not pay for long-term care. Period. At most it pays up to 100 days of skilled nursing per disease. Unless your loved one is among the 2% of Americans smart or flush enough to take out increasingly expensive long-term care insurance, your only recourse is paying out of pocket or, if you’re anywhere near the poverty line, spending down your loved one’s assets so they can qualify for Medicaid.
With 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring every day, we are only at the beginning of this demographic danger.