Mamaroneck, New York

An Aging But Living Generation

I am really fascinated by the effects of America’s aging population. Baby Boomers are now the majority generation of our elderly population. Baby Boomers are the children of the Greatest Generation, those who grew up during the Great Depression and World War II.

Many social safety net programs like Medicaid and Social Security were introduced right when Baby Boomers were coming into the middle of adulthood. As a result, they are the first generation in which nearly the entirety of the generation is covered by these programs. And that’s a good thing! Before, elderly poverty was a tragically common issue.

However, the popularity of these programs has had unintended negative consequences. Because the Baby Boomer generation was much larger than their parents’ generation, taxes from the Boomers’ income could be used to pay for Social Security and other social programs benefiting their smaller, parents’ generation.

But now that the Baby Boomers are retiring, and the current adult workforce is much smaller than the Baby Boomers were in their heyday, most of the social safety net is being bankrupted from inadequate taxation. The Baby Boomers simply did not birth enough future tax-paying children to offset the costs of the programs they now rely upon.

Another result of Medicaid and Medicare being so popular is inadequate resource distribution. In hospitals, there are not enough beds. In clinics, there are not enough doctors. And so on. But for elderly populations with chronic health conditions, a lack of proper health care can be the difference between life and death.

Similar to these issues, there’s another problem particularly impactful to elderly populations: medication errors. One effect of America’s aging population is, as you can imagine, increased demand and use of medication to treat illnesses and conditions. But the increase in use has not always been met with an increase in training or staffing to deal with medication errors.

Some medication errors include events like nursing home aides giving residents too much or too little of a particular medicine, improperly timing the administration of the medication, and even administering expired medication.

I did some research on the website for Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLP, and on the site, medication errors are described as a type of medical malpractice becoming increasingly common in nursing homes. That makes sense with the greater elderly population in America. It may be a result of negligence, understaffing, or both. Either way, there are legal options if you or a loved one suffered from a medical error at a nursing home.

Nursing homes are only going to become more important with an aging population and longer life expectancy because of medical advances. As a society, we will either have to readjust our expectations on inclusion for older people or we will have to become comfortable with the idea of our most vulnerable population possibly being injured from accidents like medication errors.

It does not have to be this way. If we diverted more resources to nursing homes and held our medical professionals more accountable for appropriately administering medication, our elderly population would be safer.