Quandary for Age 50+ Parents: How Will Their Millennial Kids Help Care for Them?

 In Improving Satisfaction Scores, Preparing for the Future

In a recent feature story, NBC News posed the question, “How Will Millennials Care for Their Aging Parents?” I think that’s a great question — especially since all my kids are Millennials! Currently I’m still a healthy, vibrant Baby Boomer. But I can’t deny I’m an aging parent.

As my high-volume generation ages from 50+ to 65+, and the odds of a chronic illness increase, the demand for appropriate healthcare will likely exceed the supply. We’re already falling behind the curve. Right now, there are only about 7,000 certified geriatric physicians in the United States. Experts project the need for 20,000 by 2020 and 30,000 by 2030. Similarly, only around 7,200 physicians are certified in hospice and palliative medicine while experts predict a need for 20,000 by 2020.

In addition, a perpetual shortage seems to exist for nurses, certified nursing assistants and other professional caregivers. The shortage leads to those positions often being overworked and underpaid. Not an attractive job offer for categories needing more workers. Yet Americans really could use the help. Already, there are 44 million family caregivers — those providing unpaid care for loved ones at home.

If we can’t get professional help at home, how about a new kind of home for those who need consistent, supervised healthcare? We’re seeing some attractive changes in continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), assisted living facilities and skilled nursing centers with improvements to upgrade amenities and everyday quality of life.

Problem is, many of those facilities can run more than $100,000 a year for housing, meals and healthcare services. The average American family has only $5,000 in retirement savings. Big disconnect. Companies aren’t going to build enough facilities for the need if only a small percentage can afford their solution.

So it brings us back to the burning question — how will Millennials care their aging parents? Meaningful answers start by the generations having better conversations with each other about the topic. Surveys by Fidelity Investments and The Conversation Project showed these results:

  • 72 percent of Boomers expect their kids will handle long-term caregiver duties if needed; only 40 percent of their kids knew about this expectation. (“I’m moving a hospital bed into your living room. Surprise!”)
  • 43 percent of parents haven’t had detailed conversations about long-term care and elder care with their children; 23 percent haven’t had any conversation on the topics at all
  • 90 percent of people say talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important; 27 percent have actually done so

But if I know my generation the way I believe I do, we won’t wait for Millennials or any other demographic segment to solve this looming question for us. We’ll start creating or influencing solutions ourselves. Just as Boomers helped revolutionize childbirth options (Lamaze, home births, water births, a resurgence of mid-wives and more), we’re likely to revolutionize the other end of life’s spectrum too.

Boomers are a generation of innovators who find new answers. And the true definition of marketing always has been identifying a need and creating an attractive product or service to fulfill it (rather than, “This is what I’ve got. How much do you want?”)

Data also has shown that Boomers are twice as likely as Millennials to start a new business within the next year. So this growing arena of caregiving needs could be a rewarding category to consider for business opportunities.

Here are just a few thought-starters:

Family caregiver training – Whether live classes, online seminars or other forums, Millennials and Boomers alike would benefit from learning together how to approach basic medical, emotional and financial logistics together.

Adaptive home furnishings – Furniture, cabinetry, tableware, bathroom fixtures, durable medical equipment and other furnishings that can adapt to and ease usage if physical abilities decline; especially adaptive ware that maintains a high sense of style.

Telemedicine – If we don’t have enough healthcare professionals to go see all the patients at home, provide ways to get home-based care through technology. From home diagnostic and monitoring equipment that instantly sends readings via the internet, to video apps for face-to-face consults, to customized daily care plans delivered by text or email, many possibilities abound.

New models of care communities – If most current models of long-term care aren’t affordable for the masses long-term, how can they become affordable? What is a manageable combination of housing, meals, and healthcare as needed? Can major health systems provide on-site community clinics and remote home monitoring in pay-as-you-go models? What other innovations could revolutionize affordable home care?

What opportunities do you see in this caregiving category for the aging tsunami, especially those opportunities related to or evolving from your current offerings?

Whether you’re a Boomer, Millennial or belong to another generation, unmet opportunity can spark a very successful business. RP Marketing has 16 years of experience in targeting the 50+ market and 25 years helping an array of healthcare companies connect with their audiences. How can we help you explore or promote a promising opportunity in caregiving for aging adults? Start the conversation by calling our business development manager, Jon Marker, at 419-241-2221.


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