The New York Times had a very interesting article this week about America's greying middle class. It posited that seniors between 65-74 were doing surprisingly well in terms of being able to afford comfortable lives. Many are working, and finding income and engagement as well. While spending on healthcare has increased in the 65-74 population, it has increased significantly more on things like entertainment and booze. It's a great, cheery collection of anecdotes in a sea of disheartening economic stories.
The article does not, however, go into what happens when these seniors age past 74. It does not explore the challenges of getting older and/or the costs of a catastrophic event that requires expensive medical and home care. Median income has risen, albeit not as much, in the 75+ population, but so has average life expectancy - and long-term care costs
Above age 75, healthcare and long-term care costs may push many of these seniors from being middle class to being part of the "middle gap." The "middle gap" is the large population of people who are too well-off to qualify for the extensive benefits of the government safety net, but who may not have high enough income or savings to afford private-pay, people-intensive care if they outlive their nest egg. As our conversation around aging continues to emphasize the importance of honoring and engaging our elders, we are increasingly trying to keep them a vital part of our communities by empowering them to remain in their homes or in independent living as long as possible. However, the cost of long-term supports and services may mean that the golden years of today's greying middle class may not be quite as comfortable as their current economic comfort suggests.
As I think about where innovation could do the most in the aging-in-place space, this is where I'm most excited. What are the products that allow people to afford needed services sustainably? How do you bring technology-enabled solutions into the mix so that they support our elders and their caregivers, without placing undue burden or dehumanizing them. The companies that answer that question, and allow the middle class to navigate the "middle gap" have a bright future ahead of them.
Where do you see opportunity in this space? Who seems to be doing this well today?