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Stuck in the middle with too few

It's true, I heart numbers. When considering access to health care resources, census data is an important measure of our ability to meet demand, now and in the future. If you've wondered why surgeries are delayed (a shortage of doctors), ERs are swamped (a shortage of doctors and nurses) and rehab facilities have waiting lists (a shortage of doctors, nurses and CNAs), these stats are instructive: dependency ratios and the caregiver support ratio.

Dependency ratios measure the relationship between the youngest or oldest in a population and the working age cohort (read: Who's going to pull the cart?). In the midst of the Baby Boom, the youth dependency ratio reached a record 67; for every 100 adults aged 18 to 64, there were 67 children. Combined with the old age dependency ratio, the total dependency ratio hovered in the low 80s in the 1960s.

Today, Iowa's total dependency ratio is 72, but it's slated to reach 78 by 2030, nearing the 1964 record. The Baby Boomers are flipping the script as we head toward an historic demographic marker in 2034: For the first time in United States history, oldsters will outnumber youngsters. That's a serious—and unsustainable—dependency burden to lay on the shrinking cohort in the middle.

The caregiver support ratio compares potential caregivers aged 45 to 64 to persons aged 80 and older, those most likely to need assistance. Naturally, that number rose as the Boomers entered their prime caregiving years, but now not so much. The supply of caregivers dwindles, while the 80+ group grows. Between now and 2030, Iowa's caregiver support ratio will drop from 4.95 to 3.86. That's a whole person less to potentially provide care—paid and unpaid.

Just 30 seconds more...

There's no point in knowing what you now know unless you use that information to access timely and competent health care and caregiving services. Consider the future needs of you and your loved ones—and do it now. Then take action steps to be prepared, whether that means finding a PCP, modifying your living arrangements or getting on a waiting list. The goal is to be comfortably seated in chair when the music stops.

Where will you be when the music stops?

Jo has a fix for health care's supply chain crisis. If your organization wants to host a thought-provoking and informative program, click here for details about Bridges, then contact Jo at to learn if one or more of her info-packed presentations is a good fit.

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