We’ve all heard the term baby boomers, but many people don’t fully understand how the baby boomer generation came to be. The baby boomers age range and the senior population explosion that has resulted is going to change the way much of the world looks at the seniors of the world.
With the birth rate of much of the world dropping and the senior population increasing, the world may have a far different look in two or three decades. Chances are, seniors will be working long past the usual retirement age as they continue to use their vast range of knowledge and experience to make the world a better place to live.
On the other hand, there will be many more seniors who will be struggling to survive and to find a retirement strategy they can afford that works for them.
Much more pressure will be put on leaders of countries around the world to find a solution for the senior population explosion that is taking place right now with no signs of slowing anytime soon.
WHEN WERE BABY BOOMERS BORN?
First of all, the baby boomer age gap is much larger than many people realize. Baby boomers were born over a span of two decades. To be considered part of the baby boomer demographic you would’ve been born between 1944 and 1964.
Some experts claim the baby boom in Canada was between 1946 and 1962. Others say the baby boomer years were from 1946 to 1964. Regardless, there are hundreds of thousands of baby boomers reaching retirement age all over the world.
The first of the baby boomers born in the forties reached the retirement age of 65 in 2011, and every year more and more join the march toward the golden years.
To understand why this elderly population boom is happening you have to look back to the Great Depression. Basically, when the financial markets collapsed it was a worldwide event and not just something that began in Wall Street and impacted only US citizens.
In fact, Canada was one of the hardest-hit countries. By 1933, one in three members of the Canadians labor force was out of work. The unemployment rate hit 12% and stayed there until the second world war began in 1939. What made matters worse was the total disarray of the countries social welfare structure.
Check out this book titled Baby Boomer Reflections: Eighteen Special Years.
Or perhaps this one will provide food for thought. A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America.
THE DIRTY THIRTIES
Much of Western Canada depended on exports and the collapse of international trade had a devastating impact. To add insult to injury, Mother Nature joined the onslaught.
Plagues of grasshoppers, hailstorms, and drought led to unprecedented crop failures. Blowing topsoil from lack of rain was the catalyst for the name Dirty Thirties.
Saskatchewan realized the lowest price for wheat since records were first kept. All the Western Provinces for all purposes were bankrupt for much of the 30s. The Eastern provinces also had extreme unemployment but were fortunate in the sense that they produced domestic goods and services and were not wholly dependent on exporting goods.
In Alberta alone, over 3800 farms were abandoned in the 1930s. Things were no better in the USA. American farmers called it the Dust Bowl and much like their Canadian counterparts, farms were abandoned and farmers fanned out across the country looking for work. In 1932 and 1933 just over 24% of the US workforce was unemployed.
It’s easy to see why there was not much interest in having a family. Of course, population growth decreased during this time period.
THE WAR VIRTUALLY ENDED THE DEPRESSION
The impact of the depression began to wane with the beginning of the second world war.
Jobs were created when factories began manufacturing war materials. The young men went off to war and earned income while they did it. Many women found jobs in factories creating bullets, bombs, and countless other products needed to fight the overseas war.
As the war progressed, the unemployment rate declined. In the USA it plummeted from almost 25% unemployment in 1933 to 1.2% in 1944. After the war, the allied countries all began to prosper.
The men returned from the war, found jobs and homes and started families. The factories that had manufactured war materials in the 1940s began building fridges, stoves, and automobiles once the war ended.
The baby boomer generation was underway as building families became the focus once again.
BABY BOOMERS AND RETIREMENT
An entirely new set of problems is being created with the aging of the baby boomer demographic.
It’s almost as if the governments of the free world were never told that all these people born after the second world war would reach retirement age in the span of 15 or 20 years beginning in 2011. It’s happening now and will continue on into the 2030s.
Social programs just can’t seem to deal with the influx of seniors. This is not an issue restricted to North America. Japan, for instance, has a population that includes 26.7% of seniors over 65 years old. That’s a staggering number and currently, Japan is the world’s oldest country.
However, North America is not far behind with the birthrates dropping and more baby boomers becoming seniors.
RETIREMENT- A GLOBAL CRISIS
Many will choose to age in place, but that won’t work for everyone. What if you have mobility, vision, hearing, or cognitive issues? Alzheimer’s and Dementia are widespread among baby boomers and decisions by seniors and their exhausted caregivers have to be made.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2013 12.5% of seniors were living in poverty and the number continues to grow. In the USA, 25 million seniors are living in poverty. These numbers are staggering and are only going to get worse as baby boomers continue to reach their senior years.
Consider this. Norway is one of the best places in the world for seniors to live in. The country has a huge amount of money earmarked for what they call the Government Pensions Fund Global. The country has more than $885 billion set aside in global property and shareholdings. Most of their money comes from oil reserves.
So what happens when this runs out? This is expected to happen in 2060. At that time it’s estimated that one out of every five Norwegians will be 70 or older.
DEMENTIA AND ALZHEIMER’S
A 2012 study determined that 70,000 Norwegians suffered from Dementia and the number is rising. Currently, the Norwegian government is offering grants and low-interest loans in order to renovate homes and build new facilities for Dementia patients.
The general idea is to get more seniors to live at home for as long as possible. They do this by providing funds to purchase electronic devices or assistive technology.
It’s quite ingenious. For instance, electronic mattress sensors will automatically turn on a light if a senior gets up. If a senior is out of bed too long during the night a smart home can send a text alert to a caregiver or alarm company.
These amazing homes can also disconnect stoves, kettles or other fire hazards at a set time and reconnect them in the morning. Wired doors and windows can raise a silent alarm in the event a person suffering from dementia wanders.
In many countries, seniors with health issues living in retirement facilities have to wait for busy staff to bring their medication. Norway has an excellent solution. They make use of an automatic medicine dispenser. It holds 28 daily doses and beeps loudly at 9 a.m. every day to remind the seniors to take their pill.
These are available in North America as well.
The Medacube Automatic Pill Dispenser might be pricey, but it provides an invaluable service.
There is even a model that will detect if the senior does not take their pill and will automatically send a text alert. This helps free up caregivers and hospital workers who normally have to worry about whether seniors in their care are medicating properly.
The Queen of Sweden whose mother suffered from Dementia has joined forces with IKEA to create affordable, modular homes for seniors with cognitive issues. They will implement a Left to Live payment model where residents are charged what they can afford after taxes and living expenses.
It’s estimated that almost 750,000 people in Canada or about 2% of the population live with cognitive impairment. This number is expected to double to 1.4 million by 2031 according to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada.
It’s critical that governments not just in Canada, but around the world, are ready to deal with this influx of baby boomers becoming seniors as it will continue on into the 2030s.
Source: Global Age Watch Index, L.A. Times
- Currently, 33% of Japan’s population is over 60.
- In 2050 almost 43% of Japanese will be seniors.
- In Norway, 100% of seniors qualify for a government pension.
- By 2040, nearly one in four Swedes will be 65 or older because of the baby boom.
- In Canada, 97% of seniors qualify for a government pension.
- The life expectancy in Canada is 82.37 years.
- The life expectancy in the USA is 78.87.
- The life expectancy in Japan is 84.55
- The life expectancy in Norway is 82.33
- The best country to be old in is Monaco with a life expectancy of 90 years.
- The worst country to be old is Afghanistan where the life expectancy is 64 years.
The influx of baby boomers reaching retirement age over a span of twenty years from approximately 2011 to 2031 is a serious issue that impacts not just North America, but pretty much all of the industrialized world. It’s taking place right now and is an issue that governments of the world have to start taking seriously.
Increasing old age pensions by $20 a month certainly won’t do it. It’s going to take a lot more than that.
The world needs to take a lesson from countries like Norway and Sweden who are tackling the problem head-on right now and not waiting until it’s too late.
Perhaps modular homes are the answer. Homes that are specifically built for seniors dealing with cognitive issues.
Modern assistive devices of the type currently in use in Norway would ease the pressure on hospitals and retirement homes and allow seniors with cognitive, hearing, vision, or mobility issues to live independently over a longer period.
This is a problem that is not going away, and with elections in both Canada and the United States in the spotlight, the candidates elected by the people should have a plan in place to deal with the influx of seniors that will only continue to grow over the coming years.
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