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Demographics Work in Our Favor – Massachusetts

By Harry S. Margolis

With more than 70 million baby boomers set to pass the age-65 threshold over the next 20 years, the United States is facing the costs of supporting an aging population. This is the main reason that federal budget deficits going forward will be so huge: we can’t afford current Medicare expenditures for so many more people.

Yet, according to a recent report to the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging, Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia: A Comparison of International Approaches, we’re actually much better off than a lot of other countries.  The report, compares our situation in detail with Australia, France, Japan and the United Kingdom, relying in large part on statistics provided by the World Health Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  Currently our respective percentages of population over age 65 are:

Australia     13.2%

France       16.6%

Japan         22.1%

UK             16.1%

US             12.8%

But we’re not doing so well in how we take care of our citizens. Here are some life expectancy statistics:

                  At Birth           Age 65 (women)     Age 65 (men)

Australia       81.8               21.8                     18.9

France         81.5               22.6                      18.4

Japan          83.0                23.9                     18.9

UK              80.6                20.9                     18.3

US              78.7                20.3                     17.7

We fit better with the other countries in terms of the percentage of our population with dementia.  Of our population age 60 and over, 6.2% have dementia, which is just a bit more than Japan and the UK which both measured in at 6.1% and below France which has 6.5%.

Surprisingly, according to the report, the US is far behind the other focus group countries in terms of the percentage of citizens 65 and over receiving paid long-term care services. This may reflect the fact that we provide much less home care than the other countries. However, we have fewer nursing home beds per 1,000 people over age 65 than most of the other countries:

                     Receiving LTC           Share of LTC at Home   Beds

Australia          13.9%                        54.4%                     57.7

Japan              12.6%                        77.0%                     37.4

OECD Average   12.2%                        64.5%                     49.5

France             11.1%                                                     72.5

US                   6.5%                        50.6%                      42.6

The report includes a detailed comparison of the types of care and sources of funding for long-term care in the five focus countries as well as worldwide.  Click here to read the entire report.

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