Indebted to the Elderly: Healthcare costs of the aged fall to families

February 17, 2014
2 min read

Germany’s Federal Court of Justice has ruled that the children of the elderly are financially liable for their parents’ care, according to an article on The Local.

The ruling comes from a case in which a man was asked to pay a €9,000 bill for care that his deceased father received – even though the man and his father hadn’t spoken in 43 years. As The Local reports, the city state of Bremen took the man to court, where the judges decided that “dissolution of the family system” was not enough of a “serious breach” to waive the fees. He appealed to the Federal Court of Justice, which upheld the lower court’s decision.

Ageing pains

In many countries around the world, people are living longer lives, leading to higher healthcare costs. As the ageing population begins placing a greater strain on markets and the state, governments are mandating that more of that burden falls on their families, particularly their children.

The costs will be big, too. Eurostat reports that in 2040, there will be fewer than two people of working age for every retired person in Germany. This is already contributing to more Germans being forced to work into their seventies to pay for their old age.

Part of the burden also includes taking care of the elderly on an emotional level. The Chinese government has addressed this by creating the Elderly Rights Law, requiring children of the elderly to visit their parents or face a fine. Other groups are taking a softer approach to providing companionship, like a Canadian service that pairs students with over-50s who live alone.

The issue of caring for the elderly is only going to become more serious and more relevant. Companies would do well to help relieve some aspects of these burdens for their consumers and employees, possibly through their corporate social responsibility efforts. At the same time, this creates a market opportunity for companies to create more products that aid in caretaking, including foods that are easy on the body and devices that make home monitoring and mobility easier.

Catherine Cottney
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