Have you been hearing or reading about the “Gray Tsunami?” The baby-boomer generation is getting ready to turn 70 next year, and there is a huge wave of us coming on strong. In the 20th century, the planet’s population doubled twice. In this century, due to declining birth rates, it will not even double once. But, the number of people age 65 and older will double in about 25 years. Many of you reading this issue of My Generation are part of the Gray Tsunami.
There’s some good news and some bad news here. Obviously, the good news is that we are living longer. We live longer because we have advanced medical care and we take better care of ourselves, in general. But, once we hit that magical age of 65 and up, we are bound to need more from our health-care system, our communities and each other. Because the birth rate is declining, as this segment of the population is advancing, soon more than 60 percent of the workforce could be made of people over the age of 65. So, in addition to health issues, we have large-scale economic issues to prepare for.
In this issue of My Generation, we are focusing on just one aspect of aging and the Gray Tsunami – dementia – and the caregivers for people with the many forms of dementia. Diane Atwood writes in her Catching Health column on page 29 that when the first wave of baby boomers reaches 85 in 2031, more than 3 million people in that age group will have Alzheimer’s (just one form of dementia). By the year 2050, it is projected that there will be 10 million people on the planet who are over 90. Half of these people will have some form of dementia. Read more about this and the 90+ study on page 5.
When you read the stories and columns in this issue, it feels kind of depressing. But for me, the “feel-good” take away is that as the world is changing, we are creating systems and support to accommodate those changes. In this issue, you will read about the people and facilities that are devoting their lives to caring for people with dementia. We have also included a guide to the various resources that are available for the caregivers (see page 9). People who take care of others must first take care of themselves. More often than not, baby boomers become the caregivers for the parents, or a spouse becomes the primary caregiver for their mate.
One woman who found herself in this role (for a reason other than dementia) is Kathy Eliscu. Trained as a nurse, and a mom to three kids, Kathy was no stranger to caregiving when she found herself in that role again with her husband Ted as he battled an aggressive form of brain cancer. Last year, Kathy shared her story with us, and now, again, she writes more on the caregiving aspect of her journey. I, once again, applaud Kathy for her bravery in sharing this story with us. You can read it on page 11.
No matter who you are or what you do, your life will likely include a personal encounter with both caregiving and dementia. We hope to have touched upon some of the more important aspects of both in this issue of My Generation. Please share your stories with us, and stay in touch.
Lee Hews, Publisher
P.S. Be sure to check out the great information we have about the next Maine Senior Expo, May 6 at St. St. Max Kolbe Church in Scarborough. See pages 12-18?.