The US population is aging. Markets in the health care industry are changing as a result. People are getting older at a faster rate than children are being born. In fact, the present US birthrate is at its lowest level since 1920! According to the graph above, over the next forty years, the ratio of 0-17 year-olds and 18-64 year-olds in our population will be slowly decreasing. During that same period, the population ratio of 65-100 will be increasing, and considerably. Between the years 2006 and 2050, the US will see a 15 point fluctuation in population ratios between its “young” (18-64) and “old” (65-100) populations. Our country has never witnessed a fluctuation of this magnitude in its regularly recorded history.
The fluctuation will be protracted, but palpable. Despite having small population numbers now, older populations will experience significant growth in the future. It will be important for communities at large to consider the effects of this increase. The increase will not happen in a vacuum, out of sight from society. It will be noticeable in everyday life. In relation to health care, our country’s health care system—both private and public—will realize greater demands for geriatric care. Nursing home, rehabilitation and hospice care will see increases in their patient base. The elderly will gain a larger foothold (and, in doing so, gather market power) in the US consumer market as a result of their expanded presence.
Competition in future health care markets will be contingent on appreciating the changing composition of our country’s population. The fact of the matter is this: health care becomes a constant one’s life when someone reaches a certain age. Based on Census data, our future will bring with it more people reaching that “certain age”. These people will demand more care than they have in the past, and we must reasonably and cost-effectively respond to meet that demand.