In a Thursday tweet, Vermont Senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders advocated for his Medicare for All platform position by touting it as a solution to help older Americans age in place.
The tweet attached a story from the Washington Post describing how the state of Maine appears unprepared to deal with the demographic shifts taking place in its population, as an increasing share of its citizens have now crossed beyond the age of 65 without enough services or workers to meet their needs.
“No senior should have to sell their belongings or spend their life savings just to be able to age in place,” Sanders wrote. “Under the Medicare for All, long-term, home-based care will be guaranteed as a right to every senior and person with a disability in America.”
The state of Maine is experiencing a demographic shift resulting in increasing numbers of elderly residents and decreasing numbers of younger workers, exacerbated by a national shortage of care workers that is driving up the cost of labor. The occurrence in Maine could be a sign of larger things to come across the United States considering demographic trends, according to the article in the Washington Post shared by Sanders in his tweet.
“The disconnect between Maine’s aging population and its need for young workers to care for that population is expected to be mirrored in states throughout the country over the coming decade,” writes Post reporter Jeff Stein, citing demographic experts. “And that’s especially true in states with populations with fewer immigrants, who are disproportionately represented in many occupations serving the elderly, statistics show.”
In 2018, the state crossed a notable threshold: a fifth of its total population is now over the age of 65, meeting the World Bank’s definition of the “super-aged.” An additional 15 states will join Maine in crossing this threshold by the year 2026, and as many as 12 additional states after that will meet the same criteria just four years later.
“Across the country, the number of seniors will grow by more than 40 million, approximately doubling between 2015 and 2050, while the population older than 85 will come close to tripling,” writes Stein.
These demographic changes will require fundamental changes to the state’s workforce, programs designed for elderly people and current standards of elder care. Maine’s relative failure to change parts of its infrastructure with its population is already straining the mechanisms of the state. The elder population is increasing, and yet many of Maine’s nursing homes are closing.
According to recent polling data compiled by FiveThirtyEight, Sanders’ approval rating among the wide pool of Democratic presidential hopefuls is second only to former Vice President Joe Biden. Interestingly, Biden’s campaign announcement earlier this year was compared by multiple late night comedians to the aesthetics of reverse mortgage industry commercials.
Read the full story concerning Maine’s elder population difficulties at the Washington Post.