As Michigan Rapidly Ages, “We Are Not at All Prepared” for the Burdens of Long-Term Care

Health reporter Judith Graham says despite living longer than ever before, we haven’t created the social structures to accommodate the demographic change.

“The number of Americans 65 and older is expected to nearly double in the next 40 years,” according to a recent Kaiser Health News report. Experts say the aggregate cost of care for our elderly population is ballooning, particularly in Southeast Michigan. The burden of long-term care has fallen on families and, for many, finding adequate care and resources has proven to be a grueling process. 

“We are dramatically underfunded, especially in Southeast Michigan. And the population just keeps getting older.” –Dr. Tom Jankowski, Wayne State University

Listen: The rising cost of aging in Michigan and across the country.


Judith Graham is a Kaiser Health News contributor and columnist. Graham covers aging issues and writes the widely distributed “Navigating Aging” column. Graham explains that our elderly care infrastructure is ill-equipped to handle our growing elderly population. “We’re living longer than ever before in human history, yet we haven’t created the social structures to accommodate for that enormous demographic change,” she says.

Graham says the middle class is particularly vulnerable to the burdens of long-term care. “Poor older adults can qualify for services via Medicaid … people who are rich can afford to pay out of pocket, people in the middle — that’s where the crunch is,” Graham says. “How can they get the help they need to age in place or afford some help when they need it? We are not at all prepared.”

Dr. Tom Jankowski is the Associate Director for Research and Adjunct Professor of Gerontology and Political Science at Wayne State University. Jankowski’s work revolves around the aging of the population, as well as the historical origins and implications of policy that pertain to older adults. “Michigan faces some special challenges because it was historically a younger state in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s … But today … it’s one of the fastest aging states,” he says. 

Jankowksi explains there are limited resources for elderly Michigan residents. “Unfortunately, the services are a patchwork. We’ve got the Medicaid home and community-based waiver program … In Michigan, that program is underfunded, there are wait lists in most areas of the state. And in Michigan, only about a third of our Medicaid long-term care folks are at home,” he says. “I have been an advocate for increasing that at-home spending for years … it’s what most people prefer and it’s less expensive than putting people in nursing homes.”

The Area Agency on Aging is another resource for Southeast Michigan residents. “I would encourage everyone who is in need to call … They have tremendous resources and they can make referrals and you may find that you qualify for some resources,” Jankowski says. 

Web story written by Molly Ryan

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