The baby boomers filled our hospital nurseries in the 40's to the 60's. Soon they will be filling our nursing homes. Or so many believe. It's not actually as simple as that.
Radio, TV and newspapers are constantly talking about this demographic shift – but what does it actually mean? The surge in the birth rate in the post-war years has literally turned our age pyramid on its head. Sociologist and researcher on ageing, François Höpfinger of Zurich University refers to "two-pronged ageing": while we are getting older, the baby boomers have had few children. As a result, the number and share in the population of old people will rise quickly. This means that we can expect to see a rising number of people needing long-term care. While far less than 10% of people aged 75 to 79 need care, the figure rises to 13% for those aged 80 to 84 and to over 34% for those 85 and older. Above the age of 90, 50% require constant care. To put it plainly, people needing nursing care are no longer able to dress and undress themselves, to go to bed or get up, to wash themselves, or to move around their own homes. Nursing care is sought later and increasingly only in the last stage of life, but is then required to be particularly intensive. Today, most people want to stay in their own home for as long as possible, not least to avoid the costs of an "expensive nursing home". The trend is shifting away from inpatient care to outpatient care provided by Spitex, neighbours, friends or family. By the way, the widespread belief that the state pays for care is only partly true. Non-mandatory benefits, whether for inpatient or outpatient care, are borne by the patients themselves and account for the bulk of the costs. The highest costs arise in the fourth age (generally over 80, but it differs between individuals) when health problems complicate independent living. This is the age that Höpfinger calls the "fragile" age – an age more and more of us are reaching.
Text: Daniela Diener