“Ready or not, an ‘age wave’ is coming that could make or break our nation,” Ken Dychtwald wrote in a paper on Monday. The size of the over-65 population and the increase in projected longevity could have severe implications for the country, according to Dychtwald, but “very few of these pivotal issues have been brought to the main stage by either the candidates or the news media,” he wrote in an email.
“When our Constitution was crafted, the average life expectancy in the U.S. was barely 36 years and the median age was a mere 16,” Dychtwald wrote in the paper. “Today, the average life expectancy at birth is 79 and is steadily rising.”
The president and CEO of Age Wave urged the presidential candidates to turn their attention to the needs of this demographic and the “unprecedented medical, fiscal and intergenerational challenges” it will present to the nation.
Dychtwald outlined four “transpartisan” issues that he believes must be addressed by the candidates to protect older Americans:
1. Medical Science Needs a “Moonshot”
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy set a goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of that decade. The new president needs to take a similar approach to addressing Alzheimer’s, Dychtwald said.
Modern medical science has extended Americans’ life span significantly, but less so their “health span.” Alzheimer’s and dementia affect half of people over 85, Dychtwald wrote, and are expected to affect more than 15 million people as baby boomers age, with a cost of $20 trillion by 2050.
“Our scientific priorities are woefully out of sync: for every dollar currently spent on Alzheimer’s care, less than half a cent is being spent on innovative scientific research,” Dychtwald wrote.
Among the questions Dychtwald would like the candidates to answer are:
- What bold measures would you take to beat Alzheimer’s before it beats us?
- Shouldn’t it be mandatory for medical and nursing schools to teach core geriatric skills to all students?
- Considering 34 million people are providing care to an elder loved one, what changes should be made to the tax code and work leave policies to help them out?
2. Avoiding Mass Elder Poverty