An Aging Nation: Part One

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You've probably heard the term Baby Boomers all your life. You're a Baby Boomer if you were born between 1946 and 1964. There are approximately 76 million Baby Boomers in this country, and they have an estimated spending power of $2.1 trillion a year.

Now that Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age what kind of changes will their needs dictate?

Ken and Regina Byrd are Baby Boomers. They haven't thought much about getting older, probably because they stay so busy. Ken is an auctioneer, and Regina is a financial planner.

"There are so many people turning 60 every day and when you think about trillions to be invested, it’s still a worry to advisers. Health care is important," said Regina.

Indeed the baby boom bubble is here.

By the year 2030, the number of people over 65 in the United States will exceed 71 million. That's twice what it was in 2000. That means 20 percent of the population will be of retirement age. It's currently only 13.

WKU Economy Professor Dennis Wilson said it won't be as startling as people think. He said the number of people retiring will not increase instantly, but slowly over time.

"Yes they do retire a little faster because of the population bubble. But again, it's not like nobody's retiring and then boom people retire every seven and a half seconds," Wilson said.

Wilson also said a growing economy will adjust to the increased demand for services.

"If this generation has lots of dollars, and it does, services will follow those dollars."

Our economy is based on a population pyramid of sorts. The younger working age makes up the base of the pyramid while the older retirement age makes up the point. It'll hardly resembles a pyramid at all when we get to the year 2030.

Wilson said there will, however, be enough population growth to support these changes.

The U.S. fertility rate is currently 2.1 children per woman, contributing 1 1/2 million more new people a year. Add to that one million through immigration and you have a 2 1/2 million population gain per year.

"In Japan and Germany their Baby Boomers are dramatically larger than the United States and they haven't got the same birth rates or immigration policies," Wilson said.

There's no question the pyramid will turn upside down in the United States as the number of Baby Boomers like Ken and Regina dramatically increase. They're hoping the coming generations will help make a smooth transition.

"It's a good thing we have younger people coming on because Baby Boomer's have had to adjust quickly," Ken said.

As said before, one of the biggest Baby Boomer strains is expected to be in the area of health care, particularly in the fields of orthopedics and cardiology.

We'll have more on plans to deal with that tomorrow in part two of "An Aging Nation."