Depending on who you talk to, the future of elder care and senior living facilities is either extremely bright or disconcertingly on the decline. Either advancements in health services, healthcare technologies, facility design, and institutional support will outstrip any demographic challenges. Or else the combination of a population that’s getting older with the Baby Boomers and decreasing economic disparity will have an outsized effect on senior living communities.
One thing everybody seems to agree on is that senior living facilities and senior living options in general are a whole lot better than they were even a generation ago to say nothing of what these care facilities looked like two generations ago.
Demographic Numbers and Economic Realities
Millennials will soon outnumber Baby Boomers in terms of the number of living adults. However, the Baby Boomer Generation is still the largest generation, historically speaking, who are beginning to create the highest demand for senior living and senior care services this country has ever seen. This also means more consumer capital for the senior care industry to go after with new facilities and investments.
The Gen-Xers stand to benefit from this investment a generation later, but the Millennials bring their own challenges in terms of being the first generation to be worse off economically than their parents. Not that this economic disadvantage has anything to do with the inherent character of the generation. Nevertheless, what’s particularly ominous about this economic reality is the generational disparity in terms of saving for retirement and having kids.
Should Millennials face a similar demographic crunch as the Baby Boomers without a comparable level of personal wealth to spur investment in the industry itself, it’s entirely possible that the next two decades will bring about the greatest improvement in the industry despite—or perhaps because of—the size of the Baby Boomer generation. However, it’s also possible that the next two decades after that will bring about a stark reversal in the overall condition and economics of senior living.
Put another way, the future of elder care is directly connected to the future of the economy. This statement is both so obvious as to seem trivial, but at the same time, also wildly underrated and underappreciated.
Knowing the Future
So who’s right? We don’t pretend to know. It’s also certainly possible that competing forces have conflicting consequences such that there’s some kind of parity in overall quality of senior care. Regardless, what the senior care industry looks like at the dawn of the Baby Boomer retirement wave is likely going to look a lot different for the Gen Xers and then the Millennials.