Health the top concern for over-65s
In the final article of five in conjunction with the Bermuda's Demographic Challenge series, Bill Storie highlights the over-65s.
Today we discuss the fourth and last age group — the over 65-year-olds. Commonly referred to as “The Silent Generation”. In Bermuda, this age group numbers about 11,000 today and by the year 2026 will rise significantly to about 16,000, according to government projections.
The characteristics of this generation include being hard-working when they were employed, have strong willpower and determination, and respect authority.
Like most people in this cohort around the world, the over-65s in Bermuda have four core concerns — health, sustainable income, family and lifestyle.
Without doubt health is the primary concern of this cohort. It splits into three sections — healthcare, health costs and health insurance.
While the three are all related, they are separate issues with separate consequences.
As the senior population continues to grow rapidly, the availability of healthcare needs to keep up. This is simply whether health treatment is available (we'll get to cost later). Stretching already heavily laden hospital, ancillary medical services — diagnostics, surgery and aftercare — and general practice services, is a challenge that will only grow.
The cost of healthcare at the full-cost level is enormous and will never roll back. Whether healthcare is covered by health insurance in full or in part, is critical, but the actual cost of medical services is very high.
As a country, we demand best healthcare — and by and large we get it, notwithstanding the occasional need to go overseas. However, we pay heavily for it.
Many seniors still carry access to their employer's health insurance facility, albeit in most cases the premiums are paid by the senior and a copay will inevitably arise. The rising cost of health insurance is a serious issue. Moreover, the need for some form of long-term care insurance is increasingly crucial. The overall population perhaps should be paying from their earlier, and employment, years. The cost of long-term care — residential or at home — is staggering.
The majority of seniors are relatively comfortable money-wise. They watch their cashflow, and in many cases own a substantial asset (house with no mortgage). Nonetheless, many seniors are suffering financially and all of us could do with extra income.
However, if we have planned properly for our old age and if we are careful about spending then given that our income is most likely stagnant (pensions and investment income), we probably don't lie awake at night worried about money. The unexpected expense can be troublesome, of course, but once again, if we planned correctly, we should have some, or most of that, covered.
As many seniors are grandparents, they have responsibilities both in terms of giving time (driving, babysitting, etc) and perhaps money (helping with school fees).
Most of us cherish the idea of having the grandchildren around us every day, but we must always be conscious of overextending ourselves physically and, perhaps, psychologically. Losing sleep and proper rest at this age will build up over time and medical issues will arise.
Hopefully, we can send the grandchildren home every night, apart from the occasional sleepover. Yet many seniors have a permanent live-in family, over and above the immediate family they reared themselves. This can cause significant strain on relations and cost of living.
Maybe we have dreamt of our golden years for many years and maybe we are now living those dreams. Maybe not. We are getting older and whether we deep-down accept it, the fact is we are ageing and that can cause mild to heavy fear. We may have varying levels of concern about the ageing process and its inevitably.
Our sleep patterns can be affected by worry of any type — family issues, health issues, money issues, etc. Apart from eating properly it is critical to get our rest — ideally in a regular pattern. Catching up on lost sleep at this age is a challenge.
It is important we stay active, physically and mentally. We need to keep all parts of the body in good order. Many people, after full-time employment, will seek part-time work or volunteering. The benefits to society at large are immense. Many charities would not function without volunteers.
Sharing your lifestyle preferences with your spouse/partner is important. If one wants to go skydiving and the other just wants to look at the sky, the disparity may be awkward. Each should do their own thing certainly, but with joint understanding and agreement.
The last concern for many seniors is loneliness. That can also include boredom. Being left alone for whatever reason is a distressing situation for many, in particular women.
There are no simple remedies unfortunately, but recognition by the family, on a regular basis, will help considerably. Yet perhaps the most important takeaway from this series does revolve around this particular age group.
It may be a convenient cliché that the serious consequences of our ageing population is just a “ticking time bomb” and, as such, the only step to take is to kick it down the road and let others work it out. That would be a dereliction of duty by all of us.
Ideas to consider
Be clear about your pension and how it works. Be clear about your health insurance including limits, copay, etc. Be frugal and keep budgeting.
2. Stay active
Make an effort to exercise or volunteer. Do mind games on the computer. Meet new friends. Travel well (but frugally). Play with the grandkids (rollerblading may be a bit excessive).
3. Have fun
Regardless of your responsibilities or energy-draining activities, you must have fun. Do what you want to do. Enjoy it today, and do it again tomorrow.
Timeline advisory: check your gas tank.
• Bill Storie is CEO of The Olderhood Group Ltd, a Bermudian company and exclusive Bermuda Partner of Career Partners International, with over 350 offices worldwide. He is also producer and host of The Ozone, a weekly radio show on Magic 102.7FM. He can be reached on www.olderhoodgroup.com or Bill@olderhood.com
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