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Study: More seniors in 2030 will be childless

BERLIN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 18:  Two generations of elderly women, one using a push-stroller, walk on September 18, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. Germany is facing multiple problems stemming from an increase in the elderly proportion of its population, including increasing health care costs, strains on its social security system, a shortage of senior care workers and challenges to its labor market.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
By 2030 the senior population will double as the last of the baby boomers turn 65. More of them are single and childless, according to a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California.

As the state's senior population grows in the coming years, so too will the ranks of the single and childless, and that will require a different approach to care, according to a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California.

The study predicts one in five California women over 75 will be childless in 2030, up from 12 percent in 2012. 

"California's senior population will be ... more likely to live alone, without family members to care for them," said Laurel Beck, lead author of the report. "These changes will have a significant impact on support services for seniors."

The report did not provide estimates on single and childless men because it drew its data from fertility questions the U.S. Census asked only of women, Beck said.

Government funds, via Medi-Cal or Medicare, pay for most nursing home care and in-home support services, but the latter is less expensive. Because of the high cost of nursing homes, the study recommends that state officials set rules restricting nursing homes to those seniors who can’t live at home.

"Nursing homes are by far the most expensive way to care for people and if you don’t need that round the clock care they provide it’s better to stay at home with daily support," said Beck. "There are more options for people who prefer to age in place."

To ensure more seniors can receive care at home, more in-home caregivers need to be trained, said Beck.

The Public Policy Institute does not specify how many more are going to be needed because there are multiple disciplines that fall under the category of home health workers – such as home health aides, certified nurses assistants and others.  (In a previous report published in September, the Institute reported a need of nearly half a million overall health care workers, including home health workers, over the next decade to help the aging population.)

In addition to more single and/or childless adults, the current report shows the senior population will also become more diverse, so the study recommends cultural competency training for in-home support workers.

From the report:

  • The senior population will rise significantly among Latinos, up 170 percent; Asians, up 118 percent; and African-Americans, up 96 percent. The number of white seniors will rise 53 percent.
  • In 2030, seniors will become a plurality with whites accounting for less than half of the aged population, Latinos making up 18 percent, Asians 14 to 16 percent and African-Americans 5 percent.