The Shock of Gray and Its Implications for the Healthcare Sector

What is meant by the Shock of Gray and its Implications?

The Shock of Gray is a term used to describe the ageing of the populations in the West with the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation and the resultant “graying” of the western societies. This phenomenon has several economic implications mainly related to the need of the governments to provide for social security, Medicare, and Medicaid to these people. By extension, the healthcare sector is affected as the healthcare providers have to provide for health facilities and infrastructure to cope with the increase in the number of elderly people. These facilities have to be provided in the areas of nursing assistants, hospice care, daycare, senior citizens homes, and advanced emergency services to cater to the increasing numbers of the aged and the ageing. This means that the existing facilities need to be ramped up to a considerable degree to accommodate the needs of the old and the infirm. This is the reason for many western governments to have passed laws in recent times that take into account the funding and the allocation of resources to cater to the aged and the elderly. The passage of the Healthcare Reform or Obamacare as it is also known is a step in this direction in the United States that is estimated to have the highest number of elderly people as a percentage of the total population.

Need to Ramp up on Healthcare Facilities

If we take each of the facilities and the infrastructure that is needed, it needs to be mentioned that like all other age groups where the income and the socioeconomic status as well as the purchasing power determine many aspects of everyday live. Those among the elderly who have the ability to pay would be in a position to have nursing assistants and caregivers at their place of residence. Those with moderate purchasing power would be willing to be admitted in senior citizens homes and hospices where they would be looked after by dedicated nursing assistants, which are a notch below residential care and a notch above daycare centers where nursing assistance is for a group of people rather than individualized and personalized care. Further, the fact remains that those among the elderly who are suffering from various ailments would need infrastructural support as far as hospitals and emergency services are concerned means that the healthcare sector would also have to provide for these services. Apart from this, there would be more demand for nutritional supplements and surgical facilities for those among the aged who need heart surgeries, joint replacement surgeries, and dialysis and other treatments.

Moving Beyond the Current Paradigm

Though the healthcare sectors in the west have planned for this influx of the members of the shock of gray, the point needs to be made that the sector has still not evolved to a point where everyone gets equal access to healthcare irrespective of the economic status. This is the goal that the governments in the west and the players in the healthcare sector must work towards as these aged and ageing members have contributed to society all their lives and hence, must be looked after in the autumn of their life. Further, the situation in the developing countries is different as familial support and other means of support substitutes for professional and governmental support. Without getting into the merits and demerits of whether families must care for their aged or whether the government should, the practical realities are such that the western governments and their healthcare sectors must ramp up on their infrastructure if they are to take care of the elderly.

Concluding Remarks

Finally, this article touched upon some points in the larger area of providing for the ageing populations and has discussed how economic wellbeing is still a determinant of the kind of care that one gets. It must be remembered that the ideal goal should be where society chips in along with the government so that those among the aged and the ageing who cannot afford expensive healthcare must not be left behind.


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