Health and Healthcare Systems

Here's how we can prepare for an aging population 

Suceava, Romania old people ageing population birth rate decline society global health caregiver sector job employment

By 2030, there’s likely going to be a shortage of more than 100,000 caregivers for the elderly. Image: Unsplash/Vlad Sargu

Katherine Ellen Foley
Health and Science Reporter, Quartz
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United States

In the last decade, natural population growth in the US slowed way down. As the fertility rate falls, deaths—largely attributed to the growing number of seniors—are rising.

birth rate death ageing population census usa america united states caregiving services jobs
Fewer births and more deaths.

These figures don’t include immigration, which has also slowed down in the past three years (largely due to the Trump administration’s strict immigration policies). This population shift from the previous decade is going to largely shape the next one, too: The demand for caregivers for older adults is going to skyrocket.

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birth rate death ageing population census usa america united states caregiving services jobs
Why is US birth rate declining?

Thanks to medical interventions, age really is just a number. Many people who are in their 60s today are much better off than 60-year-olds from the last century. But still, the American Association of Retired Persons estimates that about half of all people over 65 will need some kind of long-term care, whether it’s an in-home caregiver, an assisted living facility, or a nursing home.

These services aren’t cheap: It costs an average of $48,000 to live in an assisted living suite, and over four times that for a full-time in-home aid.

There’s also a massive shortage of people working in the caregiving field: Most paid caregiving jobs don’t pay well (at an average of $13,000 annually), making it an unattractive career choice. By 2030, there’s likely going to be a shortage of more than 100,000 caregivers for the elderly.

It’s not just the US population that’s aging: By 2050, over one in five adults will be 60 or older. Eighty percent of those people will live in low and middle-income countries. Japan’s population has been shrinking for years thanks to an aging population and shrinking fertility rates, and several countries in Europe are also facing major population declines as more people emigrate.

The good news is, aging populations provide a lot of opportunity. The demand for caregivers—as well as more leisure activities for healthy seniors—will create millions of new jobs globally in the next decade, too.

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