New York, NEW YORK (November 16, 2021) – The Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) today released a new report, Shining a Spotlight on Caregiving: Employer Practices Through a Policy Lens. The report links 21st century employer benefits to a new social contract for how to meet growing employee needs in our aging society. The report is sponsored by Bank of America.
The global Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the centrality of health to the functioning of the economy. Further, the coincidence of the World Health Organization and United Nations launch of the Decade of Healthy Ageing at the beginning of this year and aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals has dramatically sounded the need to transform how government and employers understand and value the tens of millions of employees who provide informal care.
In the U.S., there are 53 million family caregivers – one-fifth of all American adults – and the number of Americans 65+ will nearly double by 2060. As the vast majority of older adults wants to age at home and in their communities, those who care for aging loved ones will experience a dramatic rise in their family caregiving responsibilities and a greater need for work-life balance.
“In an era of longevity, the needs of family caregivers are continuously growing and evolving,” said Lorna Sabbia, Head of Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions at Bank of America. “Employer recognition of caregiving needs in the workplace and tailoring benefits to meet those needs will not only improve financial wellness of employees, but also increase productivity for companies.”
The report is a first of its kind, building on important research on the longevity economy and financial wellness that Bank of America has conducted over the past decade. It underscores the sensitive, challenging, and difficult balancing acts between work and care that we have seen in the last 35 years since employers and the nation stepped up to meeting employee needs for child care.
“Now is the time for employers and policymakers to ensure comprehensive, well-designed benefits and policies for family caregivers in our aging society,” said Michael Hodin, CEO, Global Coalition on Aging. “By building on the current momentum, leaders can work across sectors to unlock a catalyst for health, productivity, and economic growth…the time for elder caregiving to be recognized as a profoundly important part of today’s health and wellness goals is upon us.”
The GCOA report offers five principles that will transform how we understand and approach this topic:
- Work should not inhibit high quality care, and vice versa. Caregivers should be able to continue working, progressing in their careers, and contributing to the economy. To ensure the continued success of employee-caregivers, employers should implement comprehensive benefits programs.
- Individuals and families should be able to support themselves financially through all levels of caregiving, both as caregivers and care recipients. The explosion of elder caregiving due to the aging of society makes this not only a nice-to-have but fundamental necessity for healthy and welcome workplaces where employee productivity and employer retention of employees hang in the balance.
- All family caregivers should receive sufficient support, regardless of whether they care for children or older family members. The longevity economy calls for reframing working age to a 21st century reality far beyond traditional 20th century retirement norms, and caring for older family members has become more visible and powerful. Therefore, caregiving support policies should include child care, elder care, “sandwich” care, and everything in between.
- Caregiver support policies should help caregivers and care recipients address Covid-19 and recover from long term impacts of the pandemic. This will speed the control of Covid-19 and post-Covid economic and public health recovery.
- Longevity economics will be significantly improved by shining a spotlight on the value added through caregiving activities.
“Family caregivers are indispensable to the future of the health system, the workforce, economy, and communities,” said Sen. Bob Kerrey, former U.S. Senator and former Governor of Nebraska. “For our society to thrive in the years and decades ahead, we must assess, design, and bolster policies and benefits that match society’s needs as they are reflected in the evolving needs of caregivers.”