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.


As a health care provider, I caution readers to beware of bureaucrats, manager, and others who provide information without responsibility. Please use all of your critical thinking skills when making thee emotionally charged decisions. Finally, when someone uses the term "Obamacare", I immediately wonder if they understand the facts as U.S. Government policy if far more powerful and influential than one person. If you don't like President Obama, then why give him the credit for a good thing? I think current law is a very good first step toward better health insurance- not to be confused with health care - for all Americans. As a clarification of definitions, readers might want to check out the following reference from "Wikipedia". A Qualified Health Benefit Plan (QHBP) is a health care plan that follows rules included in the proposed Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962), preceded by America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (H.R. 3200). These rules include offering a standard set of services, which includes hospital and outpatient care, mental health, prevention, well-child care, and maternity care. H.R. 3962 would require private insurance plans and the public health insurance option to adhere to a set of standards:[1] ▪ Guaranteed renewal of insurance ▪ Guaranteed acceptance, regardless of a person's current health or health history. ▪ A cap on out-of-pocket costs ▪ Allow the use of affordability credits so that those with (sudden or long-term) lower incomes can afford insurance ▪ Competition in the market place and efficiency requirements for private plans to bring the cost of premiums down It also requires that the public plan be national - available everywhere in the United States.[1]

Hi Ben, Debbie (Bush) Feldmann from your days at Xerox!! So good to see your face and how successful you have become! I appreciated this article as I am experiencing this myself with my own parents. God Bless, Debbie

I went to their website and still could not get any real information. Seems that you have to have a sponsor of some sort to get any meaningful info.

Ditto to Laura's comment

I would like to know what Univita DOES other than talk about these issues, which I know all about.

My health insurance is provided at low cost as part of retirement benefits, but it does not include very simple in-home help, which is what I really need--something that does not require technical help--just simple assistance with things like bathing and light housekeeping--about an hour a day at an affordable cost. Better still would be someone to live in, which has to be less costly than the average nursing home fees. But instead Obamacare, insurance companies, etc. want me to be ill enough to go into an expensive situation such as a nursing home. What to do, what to do? Don't tell me assisted living with their version of a happy life of bingo and their own doctors.

Thank you for this article. I appreciate the positive tone around a subject that can cause many of us stress. Your comment, "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..." is spot on. As an architect I have found that my clients have a growing awareness of how their home will work in 10-15 years and beyond. After investing in remodeling a home, understandably, they don't want to have to move if their mobility changes. It's easy to plan for a wider doorway or flush threshold, as it works just as well for someone using a walker as it does for a new mom with a stroller. A little planning now goes a long way for the comfort and life expectancy of the home and the home owner.

This story is highly relevant at this time. My husband and I both have aging mothers in their 80s who are facing the issue of what kind of care do they need as they begin to lose mobility. My husband and I do not have children, so it will be absolutely necessary for us to maintain our health for as long as possible. Thanks for this story!

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