From Donald Trump in America to Angela Merkel in Germany, the politics of immigration has become one of the most sensitive and volatile issues in the world today.
While it is often seen as a source of political tension and social disruption, there’s another side to the immigration story. As longevity increases and 80-plus becomes the fastest growing age group in America, Europe, Japan and China, immigrants can be a source of elder care to those in need.
Some are hoping that our growing need for elder care can be satisfied by technology. However, despite the exciting innovations in robots, we cannot assume that our parents’ care will be taken care of solely with machines.
Employing immigrants as caregivers for the elderly is win-win situation, in which we keep our borders open for immigrants who want to do jobs newly created by aging populations. Talk to anyone in the elder caregiving world and you’ll quickly learn that we need thousands of new caregivers to meet the growing demand.
Why not use the huge and growing needs of elder caregiving as a way to think and act differently toward those who want to migrate to the advanced economies of North America, Europe and Asia? President Obama’s conference on aging this past summer began to address this idea. In Europe, there are considerable efforts underway that connect these dots as a way to drive their 2020 economic growth plan. And as the Japanese prepare for the use of robotics in elder care, they can teach the rest of us how to marry innovative technology with the most personal of human needs.
Prime Minister Abe, Chancellor Merkel and President Obama could surely help by convening a conference on elder caregiving under Japanese G-7 leadership, where they target the multitude of immigrants from neighboring countries who want to contribute value to what they hope will be their new homes. This would follow nicely from the targeting of Alzheimer’s by Prime Minister Cameron of the U.K. when he led the G-7 meeting last year.
With 50 percent of all eldercare dedicated to Alzheimer’s, the need is clear. Why not shift today’s anti-immigration rhetoric toward the hopeful challenge of a solution for one of global society’s greatest needs – caring for the exploding 80-plus demographic.