Impending Tsunami: Boomers Turning 65

In a recent meeting with Fourth Street Forum host Marcus White, V.P. of Community Partnerships, Carol Wessels, Elder Care Attorney and former chair of the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Elder Law Section, Nino Amato, President of the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, and Sharon Adams, Director and Co-Founder of Walnut Way Conservation Corporation, discussed the future of Baby Boomers turning 65.The forum addressed the concern that over 76 million “boomers” born from 1945 to 1965 in the U.S. are retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day. They are not prepared to retire due to emotional, physical and financial set- backs which occurred in the last 10 to 15 years. At least 50% would be in deep poverty without Social Security. Boomers are facing the challenge of living with less and working longer with lower wages. Twenty-five million elders have less than $1,000 saved because pensions were not protected, they endured savings and loan losses, equity in housing was lost, and contracts were broken. Disparity has never been greater.

There are many solutions for stopping the radical, politically backward trends that are hurting the elderly. Developers must seek to design communities providing for the common good. Various forms of transportation including high speed rail and bus services for the elderly must be fostered. Walkways must be easily accessible for exercise and mobility. Interactive commons must be established for all ages. We must provide community gardens for mental and physical nutrition. There must be forums to look at budget needs for all generations. Urban and rural planning groups must address the needs of the Baby Boomers now.

The medical needs of our elders are also becoming critical. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are at epidemic levels. The Affordable Care Act helps retirees with coverage for a variety of wellness initiatives and also screens for illnesses, but research is critical to solving these illnesses. Communities must be better prepared to treat dementia, diabetes and other diseases of the elderly. We must provide greater access to long term care for elders at home. Assisted living arrangements and nursing homes must be supported.

Baby Boomers are more educated than elders in the past. Their level of volunteerism and compassion for the common good is greater than ever before. The wisdom of their experiences should be included in intergenerational decision making. By working for the common good, we can care for our seniors. If we are lucky, we all get old.