NPR aired a story this week called “Boomers’ Delusion About Health in Retirement”. It reports on a study they did in conjuction with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. The article reports that some experts worry that when it comes to their health, boomers are still woefully unprepared — or worse, in denial.
“The mismatch between how people think the next 10 to 15 years is going to go and what current retirees experience is something that’s very consistent,” says Jeff Goldsmith. “There is no question that one distinguishing feature of our generation is this extraordinary, almost genetic optimism. And the poll results look to me like a lot of that optimism was drawn from a deep well of self-delusion.”
Here’s an example of the public’s denial, “only 1 percent of those not yet retired said they expect the amount of exercise they get to decrease in retirement, while 34 percent of retirees said they actually are getting less exercise.”
Here’s another: “only 13 percent of people over age 50 but not yet retired said they expect their health to be worse in retirement than it is currently. Yet 39 percent of retirees said their health is worse than it was in the five years before they retired.”
The report goes on to indicate the public is still unclear about who pays for long-term care. In the poll, a majority of those both retired and not-yet-retired thought Medicare, private savings and private insurance would be the primary payers if they needed nursing home stays longer than 100 days. In fact, the primary payer for nursing home care across the nation is the joint federal-state Medicaid program. Yet that was identified as the most likely payer for their own long-term nursing care by only 7 percent of retirees and 10 percent of not-yet-retired boomers.
There’s already evidence that people are starting into this retirement era with burdens. A third of the generation is obese, and another third is overweight. And even though people talk a good game in terms of exercise, it’s not clear the numbers actually support it.
The only “silver lining” the linked article gives is that when it comes to long-term care, the boomers are considerably more aware of the possibility of the crushing cost than previous generations have been. More than two-thirds recognize the threat of long-term care expenses to their financial futures.
The public is still choosing not to act to ensure their dignity, options and choices by doing responsible long-term care planning. I am very scared for them.
Take heed. Make it safer for yourself and less stressful for those you love. Be empowered by being responsible. Stop making excuses to avoid planning for the future.