The Issue

  • Americans are living longer. Over the last 150 years, life expectancy has doubled for people in the developed world.
  • In 2011, the first of the Baby Boomer Generation turned 65. By 2030, one in five Americans will be past that age. By then, the 65 and older population is projected to be twice as large as it was in 2000. It is estimated to grow from 35 million to 72 million. Note: More stats of this kind are available at www.silverbook.org.
  • This combination of increased lifespan and an aging population has resulted in a “Silver Tsunami,” an impending wave of chronic diseases that will place a major burden on health care systems, economies, individuals and caregivers.
  • Eighty percent of seniors have at least one major chronic condition, and half have two or more. And it’s not cheap. Chronic diseases of later life are costing the nation more than $1 trillion per year—a figure expected to increase to $6 trillion by the middle of this century.
  • The National Institute on Aging (NIA) is still vastly underfunded at about $1.1 billion a year, out of the approximate $32 billion a year the National Institutes of Health (NIH) receives overall. In real-world terms, for every dollar appropriated to NIH, only about 3.6 cents goes to the NIA.