Dutch 'young elderly' not preparing for future healthcare needs: report

Health insurance
The rising cost of health care and insurance, as described by the image's creator.photo: 401(K) 2012 / Flickr

The newest generation of 'young elderly people' are completely unprepared for the phase in their lives in which they will be dependent on care. Despite increasing staff shortages in healthcare and the Dutch government increasingly relying on the public to provide informal care, a large majority of people between the ages of 55 and 75 expects the State to care for them, according to a study by I&O Research on behalf of newspaper Trouw.

I&O Research studied the 'third phase of life', between working life and real old age. In the past people lived around five years after retirement. Now older Dutch people are richer and healthier than ever. Two thirds rate their health as good to very good, and the average 75-year-old is almost as fit as a 55-year-old, according to the newspaper. Currently Dutch can expect to live 15 years after retirement before they become dependent on care. 

Around 70 percent of today's young elderly people consider "good care" the government's task, despite the fact that the government wants citizens to first rely on their own environment. Almost half do not want to rely on their children for informal care. Young elderly people en mass acknowledge that their home is not age-proof, but a majority is not doing anything to rectify this. 

This generation of young elderly people are massively in denial, I&O researcher Peter Kanne said to the newspaper. "They prefer to not see themselves as old. That is understandable, but also naive. Because there will soon be a major shortage of both professional and informal care, they will end up in trouble at a certain point." Professor Nardi Steverink of the University of Groningen, who supervised this study, said that retirees "are not very concerned about the future, while they should be."

The researchers found that the gap between rich and poor widens after retirement. Poorer older people feel less healthy, feel less inclined to "keep up the pace" after retirement, and have a smaller social network that they can count on. Almost half of young elderly people with a minimum income say that life is "no longer necessary" if they become dependent on the care of others. At the highest income level, only a quarter endorse that statement. 

Professor Steverink thinks that the government should play a more active role in the care for the elderly. "We have to do something with the fact that so many people say: 'The government must take care of us'. Some form of a care home is needed."