The other day, my mother mentioned to Dear Husband (DH) that if she’d known she was going to live this long, she’d have taken better care of herself. Since she’s still working and living in her own house (at 70), I think she meant that she’d have planned better… because she’s already outside the parameters established when she was born:
The driving force behind the growing cost of retirement is the fact that the baby boomers will spend more time in retirement than any previous generation. According to the Center for Disease Control, a 65 year old can now expect to live another 18 years, on average. American seniors are living 50 percent longer than they were in the 1930s, when Social Security set 65 as the benchmark retirement age.
For some retirees, realizing how long they will live after retirement is a shock in itself. “When my husband used to talk about retirement, I would get really upset. I finally realized that I was thinking of retirement as the last step before death,” said Peggy Briggs, a 67-year-old Nebraska state retiree. “Living a long time can be the scary step if you don’t have enough resources to stretch over that period of time.”
Americans are living much longer; we all know this — but for years, we’ve been talking around it, and “fixing” Social Security is the phrase behind which we’re hiding. If you’re like me (and millions are), you’re saving for your child’s (or children’s) college education, and your own retirement (sans Social Security), and some form of long-term care for at least one parent.
Just how many ways can you split a dollar?
As Molly Selvin’s article in last month’s LA Times shows, the problem is far more complex than that:
Recognizing the mounting burden of caring for aging parents, companies including NBC Universal, Unilever USA and McGraw-Hill Cos. now offer services that include underwriting the cost of emergency caregivers and connecting employees with nursing-home finders or physicians who specialize in older patients.
Some employers are allowing workers to include their elderly parents in health insurance coverage. Some provide counseling, group support sessions, more flexible work schedules and even help with errands and home repairs.
We are a much different America than the one into which my mother was born.
Did any of us seriously expect to keep working into our mid to late 60s, while simultaneously trying to maintain our parents’ homes, or drive them to medical appointments, or even nurse them at home? And how many of us still live in the same towns (or even states) as our moms and/or dads, anyway?
Unfortunately, while Selvin’s article optimistically touts several corporations that are responding to the problem, it’s a route that’s been run before:
Although little data are available on the number of companies offering these benefits, consultants say elder-care assistance is catching on faster than did child care.
Many executives at these employers, typically men, initially saw child care as primarily a benefit for female workers. Elder care, on the other hand, is seen as a burden for both men and women, said Ellen Galinsky, president of the New York-based Families and Work Institute.
“Not everyone has children, but everyone has a parent,” said Alexandra McCauley, a human resources vice president at NBC Universal in New York.
Also, experts say, full-time elder care is often more expensive and harder to find than child care.
In this ever-more-competitive business climate, I doubt seriously that elder care is going to catch on any better than child care did.
We are not ready for this.