One way private long-term care insurers (LTCI) could set their products apart could be to emphasize how compatible LTCI coverage is with alternative medicine.

The assumption today seems to be that an 85-year-old is an 85-year-old.

An 85-year-old is supposed to be a humble, accepting person who likes Lawrence Welk polka music and does what the doctor says.

Of course, that stereotype was never a perfect description of old old people and is probably not all that accurate today. But it might have some relationship with reality as members of the Silent Generation start needing long-term care (LTC).

Members of the Silent Generation grew up listening to Fats Domino and Elvis, and it’s hard to believe they will tolerate the kind of primitive, TV dinner-level food that people born in 1915 will put up with. But members of the Silent Generation did grow up getting the first polio vaccinations, the first measles vaccinations and they first birth control pills. They smiled and bought bottles when pediatricians told them how great artificial baby formula was. On the whole, they may like home care agencies and nursing homes with a Marcus Welby approach to medicine.

Baby boomers, on the other hand, grew up with health clubs, jogging, the Atkins diet, the grapefruit diet, acupuncture, meditation and pyramid power. They now guzzle fish pills and vitamin C pills. Many of them know the words to Stairway to Heaven by heart, or know arguments about why Stairway to Heaven is a rip-off by heart.

Baby boomers want health plans that cover chiropractors and naturopaths.

One great advantage private LTCI plans have over major medical plans is that the insurers generally pay benefits directly to the claimants and let the claimants or their caregivers decide how the money ought to be spent.

If Jane Boomer gets LTCI benefits, she’ll be able to choose whether she spends the money on ordinary, conventional medicine home care or home care aides who are experts in massage therapy.

Jane Boomer can choose whether she uses nursing home benefits at a nursing home that pumps patients full of conventional prescription drugs or encourages them to drink herbal tea instead.

Maybe one message LTCI marketers can deliver is that LTCI coverage can be a good, flexible fit for just about any boomer, whether the boomer will be on a Pat Boone type of LTC track or more of a Grateful Dead LTC track.