The White House Conference on Aging is perhaps the most important meeting about aging and the related health issues of longevity held in the United States.
Reality check. All of us are getting old, some at a quicker pace. Understanding the risk and the financial costs and burdens of aging is essential in preparing your family and finances for future long-term care. This fact is the reason the White House brings in experts every ten years.
Quick - You're Getting Older
This is a once-a-decade conference sponsored by the Executive Office of the President of the United States. The purpose is to make policy recommendations to the president and Congress regarding aging. Every ten years, the White House brings in leaders from many areas to discuss aging and relate health issues, including long-term health care.
The last conference was held on July 13, 2015. Then U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A. told the crowd gathered at the White House and viewing via the internet that the issue of aging is a critical public issue.
“All of us our aging no matter what age we are at, to be clear.”Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A., US Surgeon General Vice Admiral
So we are all aging, as the former Surgeon General says. But does your current age reflect how old you feel? Like you're 40 years old going on 60? Or maybe, 40 going on 21?
Age may be just a number, but medical experts increasingly are saying it might not always be the right number to gauge your health.
How Quickly are You Aging?
Everybody grows older at a different pace, according to a recent study that found the processes of aging can begin fairly early in life. The study calculated the aging rate of 954 men and women—taking various measurements of their bodies' health—when they were each 26, 32, and 38 in chronological years. By analyzing how these measures changed over time, the researchers were able to see who aged faster and who slower than normal.
The aim of the research is to be able eventually to identify signs of premature aging before it becomes evident years or decades later in chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or kidney, and lung impairment. "Intervention to reverse or delay the march toward age-related diseases must be scheduled while people are still young," according to the study, published online just prior to the conference in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Also, being able to measure aging in young people could allow scientists to test the effectiveness of antiaging therapies, such as calorie-restrictive diets, the study said.
To measure the pace of biological aging, which the study defined as the declining integrity of multiple organ systems, the researchers relied on 18 separate biomarkers. These ranged from common measures such as HDL-cholesterol levels and mean arterial blood pressure to more obscure ones like the length of telomeres—the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that shorten with age.
Most of the study participants aged one biological year for each chronological year. Some, however, put on as much as three biological years for every one year, while others didn't increase in biological age at all during the 12-year span the study surveyed. Using a subset of the biomarkers, the researchers calculated that at 38 years old, the participants' biological ages ranged from 28 to 61.
Studies looking at biological age have been done before, but mainly in older people who already had age-related diseases. Earlier studies also generally took just a single reading that compared chronologically with biological age and didn't examine the pace of aging over time.
Health issues happen at any age. How your body reacts to those health issues differs from person to person. The need for long-term health care is just one measure of how we feel and the "age" we feel.
Risk of Needing Long-Term Care Increases with Age
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says if you reach the age of 65 you will have a 70% chance of needing some type of Long Term Health Care service before you pass. A 2013 U.S. Senate Commission report says 44% of all those who are receiving Long Term Health Care services are under age 65.
These things, experts note, should be kept in mind when planning for retirement and the costs of long-term health care. Those costs are generally not paid for by health insurance or Medicarefor those 65 and older. Only Long-Term Care Insurance will pay for these costs but you must have a policy in place before your health changes, generally in your 40s or 50s.
If your health is already poor you may have few options available unless you had planned ahead. Unfortunately, too many people wait until they have a health event to plan when it is best to plan before you retire when you still enjoy good health.
Preparing Your Family and Finances for Costs and Burdens of Aging
The consequences of aging are numerous. As we get older, the chance of needing help with normal living activities most of us take for granted increases substantially. With longevity, our risk of cognitive decline also increases.
The impact is not just financial. Yes, the cost of long-term care services increases each year. The national average cost for a skilled nursing home, according to the LTC NEWS cost of care calculator, is $103,392 in 2019. The cost varies depending on location. The expected cost in 2040 is $192,329. That would take a big bite out of any budget.
Most extended care is not delivered in a nursing home. Assisted living facilities are less expensive and less institutional compared to a nursing home. The average cost in 2019 was $49,440 in base costs. Additional charges depending on the amount of help you need could increase the cost by as much as $1500 a month.
Most people would prefer to stay in their own home. The cost is not cheap but still less expensive than a nursing home. The 2019 costs, based on a 44 hour week, averaged $51,852 a year.
You can find the current and future cost of long-term care services where you live by using the LTC NEWS cost of care calculator by clicking here.