Did you know that more than 78 million people or one-third of the population is represented by the Baby Boomer generation? The over 65 population will be tripled between 1980 and 2030 and the first batch of Baby Boomers has already turned 65 in 2011. This will no doubt present a number of challenges to the healthcare industry that we will all too soon be forced to face.
So “sixty is the new fifty” they say, although the health and lifestyle of people at 65 is very different than it was in past generations – the reality remains that chronic conditions continue to plague the population. The American Healthcare Association reports that over 37 million Baby Boomers will manage more than one chronic condition by 2030, with one of four, or 14 million, living with diabetes, more than half living with arthritis and more than one third will be classified as obese.
For those of you that remember, the baby Boomer generation was the one involved in social change and social issues. Today and for decades to come we will need their strong history of activism and grass roots need for change to motivate and change healthcare reform issues. Workforce changes will need to be made to meet the demands of these aging baby boomers, particularly since many of today’s healthcare workers are the Baby Boomer Generation. Go to any healthcare facility today and look around at the nurses working there, it will become abundantly clear that most of the healthcare workers are in fact Baby Boomers themselves. We hear often about nursing shortages and predictions that it will continue to get worse.
As Baby Boomers retire, a greater problem is created. Not only will there be fewer nurses but those retiring will require more healthcare as part of the aging process. As this carousel spins and things begin to change rapidly it will force Home Health Care Agencies and facilities to scramble to fill positions. A study from North Western University revealed that many home Health Agencies are unable to find employees with strong backgrounds, education or training and are forced to hire less qualified applicants to meet growing demands, thus leaving ailing baby boomers to be paired with often times unskilled workers putting both parties at risk. The lack of qualified employees is the result of a small population of employees to hire from, a rising demand and an aging population.
It has been said that Baby Boomers will no doubt be the best educated and most savvy seniors this country has ever had. This generation will insist on power and decision making through-out the healthcare industry and well into end of life. The effects of having to care for such a large group will be felt in many areas of healthcare that are already undergoing transformations. The surge of boomers enrolling in Medicare will also poses a potential problem in funding.
Obama’s raising the retirement age has given us a short term financial boost to the Medicare program but the long term truth is that it will have less of an impact because of changes in life expectancy.
So what about healthcare Staffing? Experts say the medical workforce is already too small to handle the aging baby boomer population. There will be far too few physicians to meet the demand and the amount of geriatric physicians has already decreased in size. Assisted living facilities are on the rise according to AHCA but the average rate of pay for healthcare workers in assisted living homes is 9.70 per hour or less than a fast food worker. It’s probably correct to say that the low wages are contributing to the decline of workers with proper training to seek out home healthcare or assisted living facility positions.
This is an amazing time for the healthcare industry and it is the first time that four generations are working together in hospitals, facilities and medical offices. These include pre-baby boomers who did not live through the great depression but have certainly read about it. Then we have the baby Boomers themselves, all born between 1946 and 1964, they grew up in big families and saw television come into homes and living rooms. The generation Xers came in 1965 and through-out 1985, they witnessed the collapse of the US economy and were first to use computers in homes and schools. The Millennials or sometimes referred to as Gen-Yers were born after 1985 and were the first to live their lives through technology with internet , social media and of course the birth of the smart phone, we can’t forget that.
All these generations bring new and different expectations, life goals, habits, attitudes, all shaped by the era in which they came into our world. Understanding the dramatic differences is most critical in hiring and staffing and the smooth running of change. As the world changes and pre-baby boomers and baby boomers retire, more competition will be present in healthcare and generational differences will be hard to put aside.
Staffing experts will grow with these changes, critiquing the needs of healthcare and putting strategies into place to succeed with the rising needs of the industry. Professionals with this in mind will be out-sourcing as needed and using placement from outside their own counties or comfort levels in order to place a perfect fit among an already challenging movement of healthcare force professionals.
Dawn M Rivera is Building and Development Specialist at Arbor Medical Staffing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.