Ana Veciana-Suarez: Boomers need to figure out who will care for them when they’re old

Lunch with friends — a former boss and a one-time colleague — always touches on a few tried-and-true topics:

Our careers, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Our choice of entertainment, heavy on the books we’ve been reading and an occasional foray into movies.

And, finally and inevitably, our families. (This involves a catch-up exercise that always makes me want to rush home to take my vitamins and supplements.)

In our last meet-up, I noticed that, where we once discussed siblings and children and, in my case, The Hubby, we now spend a lot more time talking about aging parents.

“If you need a home health agency,” said one of my friends, who is navigating the shoals of child-rearing and parent caretaking with characteristic aplomb, “I’ve got one that I absolutely love.”

“Not there yet,” I assured her. “My father’s got his faculties intact.”

I must’ve sounded far too smug because, while deciding whether I should ruin my nutritional choice of a salad entree with a dessert splurge, my friend blurted, “Actually, I’m talking about us. When we need it.”

That freaked me, frankly. Except for my darn allergies, I’m healthier than your average fifty-something, and I’m diligent about exercise and, to a certain extent, nutrition. I can’t envision a time when…oh, please, please, let’s not go there. Not yet, not now.

But about a week after our lunch, AARP released a report about the looming shortage in caregivers for older people. In “The Aging of the Baby Boom and the Growing Care Gap,” the study’s authors projected that, by 2030, there will be only four potential caregivers available for each person 80 or older, down from more than seven in 2010. This drop comes at precisely the wrong time, when my generation, those born between 1946 and 1964, will most need it.

Researchers have defined it as the “2030 problem.” Of the 78 million baby boomers now living, 60 million will still be alive by 2030 and about 20 million by 2050. But because we had fewer children, divorced more, sometimes never married and are living longer than other generations, many of us will likely not have any back-up in our dotage.

“It’s a wake-up call for aging boomers,” AARP’s Lynn Feinberg told The Washington Post. “We’re really moving toward an uncertain future as…relying on our family and friends to provide long-term care isn’t going to be realistic anymore.”

Almost two years ago, I convinced The Hubby to buy long-term insurance. We’re young enough, I reasoned, to be quoted an affordable premium. Besides, I’m the kind of person who likes to dot her i’s and cross her t’s. So I was miffed when someone suggested that this investment was a waste of money. She claimed that I, as a married mother of five, didn’t need to worry about who would care for me in my declining years.

I thought she was kidding, but she was perfectly serious. And misguided. So are lots of my peers.

While our children may — or may not — be eager to ferry us to the doctor or change our diapers in the not-so-distant future, I, for one, am hedging my bets. Long term insurance won’t pay for everything I need in the twilight of my life, but, under certain circumstances, it could go a long way towards helping me and providing a respite for my kids. I like to think I’m buying a limited form of independence. I like to think I’ve partially answered the biggest question facing my generation.

Who’s going to take care of us when we’re older?

Follow Ana on Twitter @AnaVeciana.

Read more Ana Veciana Suarez stories from the Miami Herald

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