Long term care (LTC) insurers and producers are trying to persuade consumers under age 35 to consider buying LTC insurance, or at least to think about why they might want the product later in life.

The industry often treats LTC insurance as a “mature market” product, but the percentage of new U.S. group LTC plan enrollees who were age 34 or younger at the time of issue increased to 8.8% in 2009, from 1.2% in 2008, according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI), Westlake Village, Calif.

Younger people who can get LTC insurance through their employers or are healthy enough to buy coverage on their own are unlikely to need LTC benefits while they are still young – but insureds ages 59 or younger filed 1.8% of the new individual LTC insurance claims in 2009 and 6.5% of the new group LTC claims, according to AALTCI.

Younger people have a way of turning into older people, and even very young workers may have aging parents.

The federal Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (CLASS Act), a component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA), is supposed to create a voluntary, worker-funded LTC benefits program. Many in the insurance industry and even in the federal government question whether the CLASS Act program can be financially viable, but, if the government proceeds with implementing the program, it could expose workers of all ages to the message that the government thinks people should have LTC insurance.

Genworth Financial Inc., Richmond, Va. (NYSE:GNW), is one of the companies that is trying to encourage consumers as young as 18 to make sure they and their parents are protected against the risk that a catastrophic accident or illness that could force them to seek long term care.

Genworth has been sending Wendy Boglioli, an LTC insurance specialist and Olympic gold medalist, out on a media tour this spring to draw attention to the need for consumers of all ages – including young consumers – to think about LTC insurance as well as health insurance, life insurance and disability insurance.

Many individuals “don’t have the discussion about long term care until something happens to them,” Boglioli says. “Planning early is everything, especially with long term care.”

Boglioli saw first-hand what lack of LTC insurance can do to a family in the mid-1970s, shortly before she competed in the 1976 Olympics, when her father’s health deteriorated rapidly and her family had to find out how to get the care he needed.

All consumers, including young people, need to understand, that “you have the opportunity to outlive your income, and you are going to need finances to pay for care,” Boglioli says.

Younger consumers seem to be starting to respond to that message, says AALTCI Executive Director Jesse Slome, citing the 2009 issue-age figures.

“The industry and media have done a good job” Slome says.

Other LTC insurance coverage from National Underwriter Life & Health: