What will senior retirement living look like in 2037?

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With all the rhetoric and hyperbole in recent months (years) over America's health care system, I thought it might be interesting to gaze into the crystal ball and see how our country is handling the "aging crisis" 20 years from now.

What aging crisis, you might ask? Well, it appears with ongoing research and continuing advancement in healthcare technology, people will live even longer (in the future), but what about their quality of life?

Twenty years from now, millions of baby boomers will be in their 80's and 90's. A majority of them will not have the financial resources to pay for ongoing medical services (i.e. the aging crisis). So what do we do?

As it stands today, Medicare does not play a role in covering or subsidizing senior independent living, assisted living or skilled nursing. Only after a three-night hospital stay does Medicare pay for rehabilitation purposes for a specific number of days or until the patient is considered "well."

Medicaid is available to those people who need skilled nursing (24/7) care but don't have the financial resources to pay. Medicaid is a government subsidy, which is funded by our tax dollars. How many Americans will need Medicaid in 2037, and will there be enough funds available to meet demand?

As you try to imagine how it will all work, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Americans live and breathe consumerism, which has fueled our robust economy (with a few hiccups of course) since World War II. With the introduction of the credit card, spending became even more prolific, and millions took on debt because it was easy to pay "later."

Peering into my crystal ball, I predict that the future shows signs of progress, with rational solutions enabling seniors the ability to afford (with help) a positive aging experience.

There are two major pieces to solving the future senior retirement puzzle: housing and health care. The government will need to play a greater role in this effort unless the private sector is given attractive incentives to be involved.

For example, hoteliers could create partnerships with healthcare companies and convert lower-performing existing hotel properties into independent and assisted living communities.

In summary, my gut tells me that 20 years from now our government will be a major provider of senior living facilities (primarily assisted living) offering housing and healthcare to millions of Americans who won't be able to afford it. It will be a major challenge, but we need to start preparing for 2037 now.

Joe Agee is the marketing and sales director for The Seabrook of Hilton Head. www.TheSeabrook.com

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