It’s Been Called a Silver Tsunamiby The Seacrest Foundation September 24, 2019
It is estimated that by 2050, people over the age of 65 will represent more than 20 percent of the population, up from just 15 percent today. That shift may not sound significant, but it represents about 40 million additional Medicare-age people flooding the U.S. healthcare system. This ‘silver tsunami’ is driven partially by advances in the medical community helping people live longer, but also by the large number of retiring Baby Boomers–people born between 1949 and 1964–according to Dr. Thomas Gill, Director of the Program on Aging at Yale University. Over the next 15 years, each day over 10,000 Baby Boomers will reach retirement age.
Research shows that 54% of older Americans lack sufficient retirement funds, a concerning number since savings can be depleted quickly with the potential of high medical costs. Declining health and social isolation, particularly after the loss of a spouse, are major factors in a senior’s decision to make use of home care or to move into a retirement community and lack of funds can have a significant impact on their quality of life, Barbara A. Friedberg claims in “Are We in a Baby Boomer Retirement Crisis?”
We spent time with Carl Measer, Seacrest Village’s Chief Operating Officer, to learn more about how these trends are affecting Seacrest Village and the community at large. While he recognizes future challenges, he finds great hope and has immense gratitude for the continued support and generosity of our community members.
Q: How have you seen the needs of our senior community change over the decades?
A: Ten years ago, Seacrest provided $700,000 per year in charitable care to our residents. Charitable care is financial assistance for those who simply no longer have the means to provide for themselves and have nowhere else to turn. Currently we provide $2.5 million annually. At this same rate, 10 years from now, we would theoretically require $6.25 million per year to care for those in need, but because of the ‘silver tsunami,’ this will potentially not be enough. The number of people requiring financial assistance is growing at an unprecedented rate.
Q: In addition to the Baby Boomers becoming a larger segment of the population, tell us about other trends affecting retirement communities.
A: What we see is that people are living longer. The average age 50 years ago was 70 and today it is 79, but we are seeing people live to be 95, 100, 105 and few of us plan for this. Resources run out. Pensions are not provided as they were back in the 90s. After 2008, we saw people taking out second mortgages, so we see people with more debt. What savings people have can be easily depleted.
We’re also seeing a generational age change. The age gap between parents and children is widening. In the past, children could support either their children or their parents during different times in their lives. They now are hard-pressed to be able to help their parents in their later years, as they are still under financial stress supporting their own children going through college or buying first homes. Residents and family members in a financial bind can come to us and apply for a scholarship. To be able to help is an honor.
Q: What about Medicare and Medi-Cal, and things like long-term care insurance? Can these help seniors with financial obligations?
A: Medicare and Medi-Cal will cover your doctor and hospital bills but they will not cover in-home care or accommodation in a retirement community. Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care are paid for privately. Many long-term care residents in Skilled Nursing also pay privately. That can deplete saved funds very quickly. Many people have Long-Term Care Insurance Policies, but the benefits of these policies need to be reviewed carefully. They may only pay for care in a licensed community or in-home medical care, and the daily reimbursement often does not cover the full cost.
Q: Would anyone know if a resident was receiving charitable care?
A: No. This information is strictly confidential to maintain each person’s dignity. We treat everyone as if they are paying privately. Everyone gets the best treatment, no matter who they are, or what their financial situation is. There is no better feeling than to tell a scared family whose loved one has run out of funds, “You don’t need to worry. Your parents will be taken care of as long as they need us.”
Q: What do you think the future looks like for Seacrest Village with many seniors in need, and the number continuing to grow?
A: Our ability to continue helping residents in financial need depends on the support
of our San Diego Jewish Community, who have given so generously for the past 75 years. I’m hopeful this tremendous kindness will continue for generations to come.