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Consumption and Age - Caregiving: Time Use And Consumption

aging percent caregivers help hours

Another important use of time by older persons is the time spent providing care to others. Although studies report somewhat different statistics on caregiving, this is likely to be a reflection of the manner in which caregiving is defined. For example, the Senate Select Committee on Aging (1988) reported that about 80 to 90 percent of elder care is informally provided by the family. The average caregiver is a 57-year-old female, but 36 percent of caregivers are over 65.

Slightly more than one-fourth of those 65 and over who participated in the 1991 Commonwealth Fund Survey reported providing informal assistance to a sick or disabled relative, friend, or neighbor during the previous week (Doty, 1995). About 15 percent of Commonwealth Fund Survey respondents age 65 and older who reported providing care to sick or disabled persons during the previous week reported providing more than twenty hours of care. Forty percent of persons age 65 and older with children reported that they had provided informal assistance of a nonfinancial nature to children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren during the previous week, and 11 percent reported providing twenty or more hours of help.

According to the 1989 National Long-Term Care Survey (NLTCS), 53 percent of the primary caregivers of the disabled elderly were themselves 65 or older, and 18.7 percent of the care-givers of the disabled elderly were 75 or older. Primary caregivers are defined as individuals who bear most of the responsibility for providing long-term care for a disabled elder.

Data collected for the Assets and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old (AHEAD) study on respondents age 70 and older revealed the amount of help provided for people age 70 years and older with activity limitations. Some 51 percent of paid and unpaid caregivers provide help every day, 21 percent provide help several times a week, 14 percent provide help once a week, and 14 percent provide help less than once a week. When help given to people aged 70 and over was measured by hours-per-day, 34 percent received 1 hour of help, 46 percent received 2 to 5 hours, 9 percent received 6 to 10 hours, 4 percent received 11 to 23 hours, and 7 percent received care 24 hours per day. The pool of family caregivers is dwindling, however. In 1990 there were eleven potential caregivers for each person needing care. In 2050 the ratio will be four to one.

The demography of the U.S. population is changing in many ways. The increasing average age of the population is important. As the proportion of older consumers continues to increase, they are likely to account for an increased share of total expenditures. An examination of trends revealed that older consumers were similar to younger consumers in what was purchased. However, Paulin points out that the population of older consumers in 2000 were not members of the baby boom generation. He speculates that there may be more diversity in tastes and preferences as the baby boomers age.



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