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Ah, the Bloom of Youth

March 1, 2006
by RICHARD L. PECK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
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    I'm writing this in the midst of long-term care's "winter of discontent." Washington, D.C., is once again talking about severe budget cuts, and the recent legislation restricting estate planning for Medicaid, as commendable as it is in intent, threatens to reduce reimbursement, as well. And, of course, all of this is happening in the face of a looming baby-boom tsunami, with older members of that generation turning 60 this year.

Tell me, are you as tired as I am of hearing this same old song? For that matter, aren't those descriptions of spoiled, demanding, self-centered baby boomers starting to wear thin? Well, I think I have the perfect antidote: a look at what might well be long-term care's shining future.

Recently, I read an item in the extremely informative newsletter Housing for Seniors Report addressing the post'baby boom era. That's right, Generation X and Generation Y are on the way, and these youngsters just might be the cure for what ails us.

The stunning fact is, Gens X and Y are putting the baby boom in the shade, both numerically and in sheer concentration. The newsletter item cites Bruce Carbonari, president of Fortune Brands Home & Hardware, quoting the statistic that between 1976 and 1985, 78 million Generation Y'ers were born. That's some 2 million more than the baby-boom generation born between 1946 and 1964. When you think about it, this is probably a natural offshoot of the baby boomers producing lots of kids, often from multiple marriages. They have done more than replaced themselves.

That has two implications, as I see it. First, the argument that "greedy geezers" will overwhelm the youthful tax base when it comes to funding Social Security and Medicare might well prove specious, especially if brainpower is applied to spreading the financing burden equitably. The second is that these kids promise to be no less demanding than their parents, and just might provide the added political wallop to push the necessary planning and financing for decent long-term care over the top.

Not that it's time to start chilling the champagne quite yet. There's plenty of reason to worry about X and Y's economic future, especially their access to high-priced housing and good-paying jobs. And there's no guarantee that they'll be any more socially conscious than their forebears. But as the reality facing parents and grandparents sets in across this broad population, the potential exists for major progress in providing secure aging for everyone.

Who knows, perhaps one result will be that saner heads will prevail in Washington! Isn't that something to look forward to?

Now, if we can only get through the next couple of years....

To comment on this editorial, please send e-mail to peck0306@nursinghomesmagazine.com.

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