Aging U.S. population: meeting mental health needs
When populations age, communities are tasked with supporting both the physical and mental health needs of older adults. California’s older adult population alone will increase by 64 percent by 2035 and with it the need for more services. Findings from a 2012 Institute of Medicine report highlight the growing crisis of dementia, substance abuse and mental illness, such as depression among America’s older adult population.
The population of the United States is not as young as it used to be, and the year 2035 represents a major demographic turning point.
Though the need for mental health services for older adults is increasing, the government does not earmark funds for such services.
According to a 2018 U.S. Census Bureau report, in 2035 “there will be 78.0 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.4 million under the age of 18.” In other words, the elderly population will outnumber children for the first time in the country’s history — a demographic shift that poses a unique set of public health challenges.
Los Angeles County will be especially impacted by the increasing ratio of non-working adults over 65 to working adults. In 2016, there were 5.2 working adults per retired person, but within 20 years, that number is expected to drop to 2.9.
Longer life expectancies among foreign-born minorities have also contributed to the growth of the older adult population. Because foreign-born minorities often live longer than their American-born counterparts, they spend more time in the category of “non-working older adult.” Asian populations, in particular, tend to live longer than populations of other ethnic backgrounds.
In summary, as the United States moves toward an older and more diverse population, it is important to develop effective strategies to support the health of aging Americans, thereby lessening the burden of care on families, friends, social workers and caregivers.