Are you ready for the Silver Tsunami?
The Silver Tsunami, also known as the Gray Tsunami, is all about the aging population.
Think of grandma, grandpa and our aging parents.
There’s a huge wave of them coming, and honestly, I don’t think we are ready.
And I’m especially concerned as the Sandwich Generation, because it’s going to impact us much harder than we think.
What Is The Silver Tsunami?
The world is about to face an aging crisis that we are not prepared for.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by 2030, the population of Americans over the age of 65 will double.
The World Health Organization says, by 2035, the number of elderly are going to outnumber the number of children.
And this isn’t just an American problem. It’s happening all around the world. Especially in developed countries.
In Japan, a third of the population is already 65 years and older.
In China, by 2050, one third of the Chinese population will be above 60 years old. This is mostly due to its one child policy.
And all this is being driven by two primary trends – often seen in developed countries.
People are having fewer kids – Think China’s one child policy.
And, People are living longer – Think your grandma that might have lived till she was ninety years old.
We forget that average life expectancy just a century ago was more like in the 40s.
If I was born in 1900, I’d most likely be dead by now.
Ok, so now you are probably wondering, “Alright Tae, that’s all interesting and all, but why should I care? So dad’s getting a little older and there’s going to be many more of them in the world. How does this impact me?”
Well – I’m glad you asked, because I’m about to explain.
Why Should I Care?
As I mentioned in the intro, this is going to impact us much more than we think.
For one, it’s going to impact our workforce. With people getting older and retiring, there will be more people leaving the workforce than joining.
It’s estimated 10,000 Americans turn 65 years old every day – and it’s not slowing down any time.
Combine that with declining birth rates, the number of work able individuals replacing these retiring workers is declining.
According to a Georgetown University report, they estimate when you net out the existing workers against the new workers coming up to replace them, we will have a shortfall of 5 million qualified workers.
The future of Social Security is another area of economic concern.
According to the 2021 Social Security Trustees’ Report, the social security program is currently running a deficit – which means its spending more money than it is bringing in and it is projected to hit insolvency in 13 years, by year 2034.
As a member of the workforce, we all pay into social security via our payroll tax.
This is used as revenue to fund the social security program which gives pensions to current beneficiaries.
I am a big fan of the social security program given that both my parents are recipients of it and it plays a huge role in giving them a level of financial security.
However, the reality is that, with less people working and the aging population living longer, unless something is done to fix the system, the money will run out. It’s just simple math.
And the few solutions proposed are not comforting. People will either need to get their pensions reduced or receive them later – forcing them to work longer.
But is this even possible? Let’s take a look at healthcare.
Impact on Healthcare
We all know a good doctor is a foundation to maintaining good health.
However, the US doesn’t have enough geriatricians.
And this isn’t in the future. Currently right now we don’t have enough of these doctors that specialize in helping the elderly people.
With a growing aging population, the gap is just going to continue to grow.
And I don’t blame medical students that shy away from going into geriatrics.
Geriatricians are highly under-appreciated for what they do and their paychecks reflect that.
Compared to specialties like radiology or dermatology, Geriatricians earn approximately half in salary.
Without these specialists, the burden will shift more to primary care physicians who are already overworked and stretched thin.
Let’s talk about how it will impact you specifically, the sandwich generation.
Impact On The Sandwich Generation
In the center of it all is the Sandwich Generation who has to deal with the consequences.
With aging parents living longer and becoming more dependent due to their failing health, the sandwich generation is often burdened with providing support.
A generation which is already stretched thin managing our own lives, raising and funding our children. We need to be present for our parents who are at the most vulnerable stages in their lives.
Whether emotionally, physically or sometimes even financially.
What Can We Do?
Now that I’ve gotten you all depressed – you are probably asking. So what?
Tae, you make it sound like the world is coming to an end, so what do you want me to do about it?
Well, the first thing is for us to realize that this challenge is not going to go away just by avoiding reality.
We must recognize that this is going to be a problem and it’s going to impact all of us.
So either we can educate ourselves and best prepare for it or, just bury our head in the sand like an Ostriches.
I’d prefer the former.
An option that my wife and I somewhat reluctantly got into is a multigenerational household.
My wife and I have lived with my aging parents and our two little children for the past 8 years and it has helped not only my parents, but us tremendously in making positive forward movements in our lives.
It will get harder for elderly to take care of themselves as they get older.
They could be financially stable, but maybe feel emotionally isolated.
They could be doing well emotionally, but need help physically.
Regardless, as the saying goes,
“It takes a village to raise a kid”
The same saying could apply to our aging parents and the elderly population.
By living in a multigenerational household, we could all mutually benefit from having caring family members close by.
Turn To Robots?
I’m not saying turn our elderly to robots – that got dark very quickly.
In Japan, where a third of the population is 65 and older and is projected to rise to 40% by 2050, they are trying some innovative methods with robots to help fill the gaps left by the aging population.
Robots are not only filling in a lot of manufacturing jobs held by people before, they are also helping to take care of the elderly.
Specialized robots designed to help lift people are being used in nursing homes throughout the country.
And some ideas that are under research involve using sensors and AI software on mattresses, so they can adjust real time using data for the elderly using them.
Recognize We Are All In This Together
The biggest thing we can do however is to recognize that we are all in this together.
This isn’t just the elderly problem, American problem or the Sandwich Generation problem.
It’s a global trend and we must all face this together.
Let’s face it. We will all become older one day. So whatever solution we do to help our elderly today will just help us in the future.
The Silver Tsunami is coming, but soon, it will be you and I on them.
So let’s do our part and do our best to help in whatever way we can.