That’s the phrase Jeff Goldsmith, a health care futurist and author of The Long Baby Boom: An Optimistic Vision for a Graying Generation, uses to describe the mismatch between the Boomers’ “genetic optimism” about the retirement years and the reality of growing old.
For example, Goldsmith notes that only 13 percent of people over age 50 but not yet retired say they expect their health to be worse in retirement than it is now, yet 39 percent of retirees say their health is worse than it was in the five years before they retired. Also, the great majority of Boomers still don’t understand that Medicaid, not Medicare, is the government program that pays for long-term care in the event they qualify. Medicaid financial trends are not exactly encouraging for Boomers who haven’t planned for long-term care, especially if they face an expensive, drawn-out illness at the end of life and can’t pay for nursing home bills themselves.
Those who think the “market” alone will figure all this out are speaking in the reverberation chambers of an even deeper well of self-delusion. We exist within a dense web of social reciprocity for a reason: to help each other so that we may ultimately help ourselves. We need policies that enhance this social web, not those that dismantle it.