Soon to be Overrun With the Old

When media spotlight “existential crises” they often are referring to some resource whose supply is in peril for future generations. Usually this has some environmental element, such as species depletion or food supply, or any other angle of climate change. But in First World societies there’s a demographic “timebomb” as the baby boomers and successive cohorts reach ages of infirmity even as sustained lower birth-rates now provide no obvious source of personalized elder care. Numerous wonkish studies have charted the problem; today the Wall Street Journal publishes this short humane observation. As long as most adults are no longer disposed to take in doddering parents as a family obligation, we’re left with these eventualities: 1) Innovation, in the form of pharmaceutical treatments for dementia and robotic aids for physical incapacities, might be of some aid; 2) these and other, existing forms of assistance will be most available to households of means–others will have to scramble; 3) governments can tax more to sustain socialized-care systems that are of uneven quality; 4) immigration barriers can be adjusted to admit more service workers who are temperamentally and economically inspired to offer eldercare. Any of these options will lead to rough outcomes that trigger many complaints. But democratic peoples will have to accept some combination of them, as well as lots more episodes such as the op-ed describes.

Published by timwferguson

Longtime writer-editor, focusing on topics of business and policy, global and local.

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