Preparing for Aging U.S. Baby Boomers

The accelerating growth of the population ages 65 and older is one of the most significant demographic trends in the history of the United States. Although U.S. policymakers and others have had decades to plan for the inevitable aging of the baby boom cohort—those born between 1946 and 1964—it is not clear that sufficient preparations have been made to meet baby boomers’ anticipated needs in old age.

The aging of the baby boom generation could fuel a 75 percent increase in the number of Americans ages 65 and older requiring nursing home care, to about 2.3 million in 2030 from 1.3 million in 2010, PRB projected in the Population Bulletin, “Aging in the United States.” The Bulletin, authored by PRB’s Mark Mather, Linda A. Jacobsen, and Kelvin M. Pollard, examined recent trends and disparities among this cohort, and how baby boomers will reshape America’s older population. Key findings were featured on National Public Radio and in other news outlets.

The effects of population aging will depend largely on the policy choices that Americans make now and in the coming years. Although government programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid have helped reduce poverty and improve the health of the older population, current projections indicate that these programs—as currently implemented—are not sustainable. Making policy changes now will ensure that an effective safety net is in place when the youngest baby boomers retire.