Aging baby boomers need sources of support
by Ben Lytle and Hugh Lytle
We are baby boomer bookends, born in 1946 and 1964. We are father and son, and co-founders of Univita, a company devoted to helping seniors age independently. We face the same questions as our friends and peers. Who will care for us as we age? What type of care will we need, and when? How will we pay for our care? Perhaps most imminently: Where will we live as we age - and will we have a choice?
Every baby boomer has or will confront the stark realities. There is no organized system that will help us age gracefully and independently. There aren't enough physicians, nurses, long-term care facilities or government funding to meet the expanding needs of our rapidly growing aging population. Yet most of us don't have a backup plan.
So how did this generation get here? Over the last 40 years, birthrates have fallen worldwide. There are fewer working adults under the age of 64 to care for people over 65 - or to fund health care programs and Social Security that otherwise could have provided a safety net. With the ratio of elderly to working-age people expected to almost double by 2050, this trend will continue.
As you'd expect, families respond in the best ways they know how. Adult children, many with small or teenage children of their own, struggle to care for two sets of dependents. Elderly spouses serve as caregivers for their declining partners, often sacrificing their own health and independence. Employers face a growing problem of productivity lost to caregiving. Stress-related disease for caregivers is a new public health concern. Many people don't plan for aging because they think the government will pay and provide care. In fact, government programs assist only the very poor elderly who have no other means of support.
These efforts by family are valiant but unsustainable. Every one of us needs to prepare for when we get older - both to protect our own health and well-being and our loved ones from the burden of caring for us. We need to plan now, before it's too late. Where do we start? We should pursue sustainable independence in the last 25 years of life as enthusiastically as we raise our families and pursue our careers in midlife. We need to understand how people lose independence and learn how to lower the risks, by adapting our homes as we lose function with age, taking care of our health even as challenges increase and leveraging financial resources to cover costs.
Our plan for the future begins with knowing where to turn to connect with trusted partners. Like Angie's List, Univita knows there is a fast-increasing need for comprehensive sources of support. And we're proud to be part of an industry coming together to provide us just that - identifying high quality care services and resources, coordinating care delivery and facilitating communication among the various parties involved in every aspect of care.
Aging can be a time of peace and fulfillment - if we anticipate our needs and those of our families and lay the groundwork now so we may continue to enjoy high quality lives in the decades ahead.
Ben Lytle is chairman of Univita Health, Hugh Lytle its president and CEO. From his experience at the helm of Anthem Inc., which in 2004 became WellPoint Inc. and the nation's largest health plan, Ben brings insights and strategic planning expertise to Univita's efforts to create a single, unified source where people can find and manage all the resources needed to age independently. Before co-founding Univita in 2008, Hugh served as president of Axia Health Management, which pioneered the concept of integrated wellness and prevention.