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Five trends that matter for older adults and caregivers in 2024 and beyond

The 2024 Technology and Aging Market Overview is online. It provides new information and insights about trends that drive technology change for the older adult marketplace. They represent the context for understanding new technologies discussed and featured in the report. This year is in many ways unusual -- the oldest baby boomer turns 78, AI investment and interest reached fever pitch, and the annual CES show had its highest turnout, with AI everywhere since 2020. These trends include the possible future role of AI, that can help address workforce issues and provide benefit over the coming months and years:

Older adults continue to live in their own homes. Older adults dominate home ownership rates as well as benefiting from lower interest rates for their mortgages, if they have one.  According to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, “One third of all homeowner households are now headed by someone age 65 or older. And with the oldest baby boomers turning 78 in 2024, the highest rates of growth are shifting to the oldest age groups, who have substantially greater accessibility needs. There has been a parallel increase in smaller households, such as older single-person households and married couples living alone.” As of 2023, 44% of women aged 75+ were living alone.

Professional caregiving is a conundrum of high cost, low pay, and demand for workers.  The most recent data indicates that 22% of adults aged 85+ need help with personal care. As families and seniors compare the costs of aging at home to aging in a senior living community, the cost projections begin to look similar – with the nationwide median monthly cost of full-time home care now at $4917, versus $4300 per month for senior living, according to Genworth Financial. And there has been an 88% increase in the number of open Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) jobs. One recent positive development – adding paths to promotion to RN for CNAs.

Shortage of workers will worsen in 2024. Also during 2023, non-medical home care work (or personal care aide) contributed to the shortage in the senior care industry.  And home care was fastest growing job . Its turnover rate soared to 77.1% in 2022. And staffing challenges are top of mind for home care agencies which are seeing fewer billable hours at higher rates.  As the shortage of home care workers worsens – especially in urban areas in which workers cannot afford to live – predictions are dire, amounting to 804,600 job openings over the decade 2022-2032, 1 of every 6 new jobs, and by 2032, the largest occupation in the economy.

Stark consumer economic realities challenge senior living occupancy.  As of 2023, the median net worth of the 75+ is $335,000.  The low level of savings slows moves to assisted living, where move-in age is closer to mid-80s. With more than half of assisted living residents aged 85+,  these are frailer residents,  many with dementia, who need help with multiple Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). But boomers are right behind them – and given inflation, may be even less able to move in. They have simply not saved enough to be comfortable after retirement and later afford more than a few years at a private assisted living.

Meanwhile life expectancy extends 20 years past the so-called retirement age. The probability of living to age 85 is now 55% for a 65-year-old male, and 65% for a 65-year-old female. Life expectancy at 75, however, is almost another 11 years for healthy men, 13 years for healthy women – requiring a longer term plan for housing, health care, transportation and other support systems. And older workers are not necessarily retiring – 19% of the 70 to 74-year-olds are working today; that percentage is expected to grow.

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