Beds for Boomers: Will California’s Supply of Services Meet Senior Demand?

By: Jen Joynt

California is home to the largest population of seniors in the country: In 2013, 4.8 million Californians, nearly 13% of the state’s population, were age 65 and older. Due to the aging of the baby boomer generation and gains in life expectancy, California’s senior population is projected to more than double to over 10 million people in 2040. And the population age 85 and older is projected to nearly triple to 1.7 million residents in this same period.

This unprecedented growth in the senior population is expected to have a significant impact on the state’s health care system, as seniors use health care services at much higher rates than those under age 65. Beds for Boomers: Will California’s Supply of Services Meet Senior Demand? examines the growth in California’s senior population and potential impacts on acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home health providers, and residential care facilities.

Key findings include:

 

Nearly two-thirds of California seniors had two or more chronic conditions in 2012, and more than one-third had four or more.

    A pie chart titled "Medicare Seniors by Number of Chronic Conditions."
 

Californians age 65 and older use acute care hospital days at higher rates than those under age 65. However, since 2008, acute care days used by seniors has declined despite the growth in the senior population during the same time.

A bar chart titled "Acute Care Days Per 1000 Population by Age Group."
 

Acute care days are projected to increase by nearly 50% by 2040 if current utilization rates remain steady. However, if utilization rates continue to decline at similar rates as they have in recent years, acute care days might increase by only 9%, or even decrease by 15%. Overall, California’s 2013 supply of licensed acute care beds is sufficient to meet the demand projected in any of these scenarios.

A chart titled "Projected Acute Hospital Bed Need: Three Estimates."
 

There is significant regional variation in health care utilization rates, as well as projected population growth. If current trends continue, the Inland Empire and the San Joaquin Valley will have barely enough acute care beds to meet demand in 2040.

A table titled "Projected Acute Care Hospital Bed Need by Region."
 

Seniors use long-term care, home health, and hospice services at much higher rates than younger Californians. At current rates of use, demand could exceed supply of skilled nursing facility beds by 2020 and residential care community beds shortly after 2030.

A bar chart titled "Projected Residential Care: Community Residents."

 

For more data and analysis on this topic, visit these resources from the California Department of Finance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and this series of reports on home health and hospice use, hospitals, and long-term care from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.

The complete report, all the charts found in the report, and the 2008 edition, are available under Document Downloads.