As you may already know, I am deeply concerned about the lack of preparation by the majority of Americans regarding the aging process.
In part one of this two-part blog, Thomas Day through the courtesy of the National Care Planning Council provides provocative information. Part two of the blog will be released next week.
Part One of Two:
Getting older is definitely not a cakewalk. If there is one thing that is true for every living person on this planet it is that everyone of us will get older and eventually die. No one yet has ever figured out a way around this fact of life. And it is also a given that as our bodies age every one of us will be more susceptible to developing one or more of the 3 D’s – disease, disability or dementia. Chances are many individuals who are not even at retirement age have already developed one or more of these conditions. In this message I’m going to address the myth that the so-called “Golden Years” are available to all seniors. For many it really is a myth. A large number of seniors are affected by what I will call here the realities and adversities of aging. The dictionary defines adversity as: “an unfortunate event or circumstance.”
The American Dream of Retirement
The concept of retirement is a fairly recent invention dating back to a novel German government policy in 1883 that forced older workers to become unemployed and in return paid them a government pension until they died. The idea was to free up jobs for younger workers. Eventually this concept was adopted by all modern industrialized economies. Throughout history, prior to the idea of retirement, people just simply worked until they died or became too disabled to work. And in many areas of the world this is still true. Nowadays, retirement is viewed as a reward for working hard at a job that is less than desirable. Retirement represents an extended period of rest and reward for the perceived undesirable activity of working throughout one’s lifetime.
For many, the ideal retirement dream is to leave their job, qualify for Social Security and possibly a pension, tap into savings, move to a warmer climate, and live out the rest of their lives in leisurely activities like sitting by the pool, reading, playing golf, partying with others, playing cards, watching TV or streaming video, traveling, cultivating hobbies, and doting on the grandchildren. Unfortunately, this dream of living out the “golden years” in a perceived state of contentment and happiness is only true for a part of the population. For others, the realities and adversities of aging get in the way.
The Reality of Dying Too Soon
The “Social Security Period Life Table” for 2016 (most recent table available) predicts that for all men born in the United States in the year 2016, about 80% of men will still be alive at age 65 or in other words 20% will have died. For women 88% are alive or 12% have died. At age 70, 27% of men have died and 17% of women are gone. At age 80 Only 51% of men will be alive and only 64% of women are still with us. By age 85 only 35% of men are alive with 49% for women alive.
There is a window of about 15 years from age 65 through age 80 where roughly 20% to 50% of all men have passed on. On the other hand, during this same period of time there are a lot more women still alive. The message here is some of those who are planning for a wondrous retirement – that desired time of unemployment prior to death – may not even make it or they may die with only a few years under their belt enjoying the so-called “golden years.”
The Adversity of Poor Health
Poor health is a major reason why many older Americans do not experience the retirement dream. Chronic disease often prevents people from participating in any meaningful activities or even leaving their homes. According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 80% of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and 77% have at least two. The American Society of Consultant Pharmacists lists the most common chronic diseases affecting the elderly as the following:
- Adult onset diabetes
- Kidney and bladder problems
- Parkinson’s disease
- Lung disease
- Enlarged prostate
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Macular degeneration
- Cardiovascular disease