In 2011 the first of the nation’s 75 million baby boomers, born in the post World War II period between 1946 and 1964, will turn 65, hitting the traditional age for retirement.Of course, nothing about boomers has been traditional, from Woodstock to Vietnam to the yuppie days of the 1980’s, so don’t expect their retirement years to be conventional—but even with boomers who are healthier and working longer and harder than previous generations, their retirement will bring extreme pressures on the social programs of the U.S., specifically healthcare. Just as the number of boomers older than 65 starts to grow, revenues at every level of government are shrinking and radical reform proposals loom for Medicare and Social Security, the social safety nets of American senior citizens. Medicare in particular is a stressed program, with costs climbing so quickly, even before the first boomer retires, that future retirees should anticipate some combination of scaled-back benefits and higher out-of-pocket costs. How will the country (and can the country) manage the golden years of baby boomers?
Emily Bazar, senior writer at the California Healthcare Foundation Center for Health Reporting, at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism