One of the earliest boomers herself—born in February 1946—Mintz thinks that the caregiving experience of so many millions of her generation may make a difference. “Boomers tend to be a noisy group,” she says. “So I hope that having gone through what they’ve gone through, they’ll speak up for their rights and help bring about much-needed change.” That includes training for family caregivers and recognition of the financial burdens, especially for those who give up jobs, incomes and benefits to care for aging parents.
Boomers, even more than their parents, may resist the idea of going into nursing homes, and new technologies such as electronic “smart” houses may help more of them to age in their own homes. But much depends on how long they’re likely to live. At present, nearly 20 percent of people 85 and older live in nursing homes—the costliest kind of care.
Census projections show that more than 500,000 people will be 100 or older in 2038, with more than one million centenarians in 2050. “Some demographers think that any baby born today has at least a fifty-fifty chance of reaching 100,” says Kevin Kinsella, director of aging research at the U.S. Census Bureau. “If we have people living well into their 90s and 100s on a large scale, imagine what that’ll do to the need for care workers.”