As the baby boom population, born between 1946 and 1964, continues its inevitable march toward old age, hints of what lies ahead are starting to appear.
The Washington Post reported that a growing number of families in Maine are having to take care of their ailing parents or older relatives because there are not enough people with a medical background in that state to do it.
Maine, reported the Post, is “being hammered by two slow-moving demographic forces — the growth of the retirement population and a simultaneous decline in young workers.”
The most northeastern state in America is on the front line of an uncomfortable trend. In 2018, 20% of its population was 65 years of age or older. Projections say that by 2026, 15 more states will join Maine at or above that 20 percent level. By 2030, another dozen or more, including Mississippi, will be included on the list.
Everybody knew this was coming. The baby boom generation after World War II has benefitted from medical improvements and lifestyle changes that significantly increased life expectancy. The problem is that some states will have trouble finding enough skilled caregivers in a few years to tend to a rapidly rising population of elderly people.
It’s easy to see Mississippi going through some of the problems Maine is dealing with today. Maine’s population is 1.3 million — significantly smaller than Mississippi’s 3 million — and both states have had trouble attracting new residents.
In Maine, the employee shortage has reached the point that health-care agencies have had to reduce the number of elderly patients who receive home visits. Private assistance, according to the Post, can cost up to $50 per hour, which many families cannot afford.
All that makes it tough on the elderly boomers and their children. Maine already needs more doctors, nurses and home-care workers, and it’s a good bet the same story will play out in other states as their populations age.
There is a silver lining to the story: It provides a clear sign that medical jobs will keep growing for the next couple of decades at a minimum. If the economy remains strong, that ought to boost wages as well.
Mississippi and other states will face this dilemma soon enough. But right now, anybody with a medical background who’s looking for work is certain to find it in Maine — and a lot of other places, too.