By Florence Soltys
The fastest-growing segment of the population is individuals over age 85.
One-half of all of the world’s population who have reached age 65 are living due to medical care that has dramatically reduced the incidence of infectious diseases and the availability of healthcare to manage chronic diseases.
The increasing number of people over age 65 will result in a greater demand for people to care for their needs.
About 75 percent of people over 65 are independent and describe themselves as well, in comparison to 25 percent that need some assistance.
Of that group, only about 5 percent need 24-hour care.
As the “Baby Boomers” born between 1946 and 1964 age, the numbers will change dramatically.
Boomers constitute about one-third of the population but one-half of the workforce.
These large numbers have strong implications for the future as it relates to services, retirement and the workforce.
These issues should be of special significance to women, who outlive men by about eight to 10 years.
Women often have an interrupted work history, earn less and live longer, subjecting them to having more chronic disease and dependency needs. About half of women over 65 are widowed or divorced.
As the number of people over 65 increases, demand for trained personnel to care for their needs becomes critical.
As the numbers increase and lives are lengthened, the requirements of those populations also increase.
To adequately deal with these changes, we need policymakers and health providers, such as geriatricians, nurses and social workers, trained in their respective professions.
In addition, as retirement monies change as a result of policy, economics or frequent job changes, the dependency on those dollars decrease expeditiously and the availability of social security becomes more paramount.
This dependence on social security is moving into the middle class as a need in a more rapid way.
Middle-class citizens are paying more proportionally in FICA taxes than upper-income workers. Policymakers need to take a swift analysis of these needs.
The demographic changes also impact the availability of elder volunteers with much accumulated knowledge to share with both peers and younger residents.
The value of intergenerational relationships cannot be overestimated.
We are fortunate when we are able to age with dignity and share our story with others.
Florence Soltys is clinical associate professor at the School of Social Work, and adjunct associate professor at the School of Medicine, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.