Every day, at least 10,000 Americans turn 65. When we imagine the future, most of us envision ourselves living life on our own terms, in our homes and communities, connected to the people we love, even as we become more frail. As Atul Gawande, Next Avenue’s 2015 Influencer of the Year, so eloquently put it, we want to continue to be “the authors of our own stories” as we age.
Yet, most of us don’t have a plan to make that happen, and we as a nation don’t have a plan, either. Our family caregivers are overstretched and our care workforce is underpaid; both are undervalued. Families are pushed into poverty to pay for care. What we have in place simply isn’t sufficient to meet the growing need for care and supportive services in our country.
Living well in the future will require a fundamental change in our nation’s approach to caregiving. We need a system that supports caregivers, incentivizes professional caregivers to join and stay in the care workforce and helps us all afford the quality care we deserve.
Leadership for this change can and must come from those of us who are feeling the pressure directly. Between the millions living in multi-generational households, family caregivers and professional caregivers, there are at least 100 million of us who are directly affected by the need for care. We know first-hand what’s needed and that the status quo is unsustainable.