The bulk of Americans are on their own for long-term care, which explains why nearly 30 percent of the nation's adults currently serve as caregivers. That's a figure certain to rise if long-term care isn't integrated into health insurance. Health reformers have been pushing for a national long-term-care insurance program allowing employees to take deductions from their paychecks when they're young to pay for care down the road. But their plan, which would provide up to $150 a day for home healthcare services, wouldn't provide enough to fully cover nursing-home care or even costly round-the-clock care at home. And it would add to a separate strain on the system: the shortage of nurses and doctors that will occur if 31 million Americans gain medical coverage through health reform. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 1 million new and replacement nurses will be needed by 2016, and 159,000 doctors by 2025.
Butler takes encouragement from the progress society has made since he founded the government's National Institute on Aging back in 1974, when old age was synonymous in the public's mind with senility. Still, there can be no resting on laurels. "Our aging society, like climate change, is an inconvenient truth," he says. "We don't want to think about it, but we can't afford not to."
[Slide show: See how 5 Longevity Researchers Stave Off Aging.]