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Are you prepared to grow old? A legal professor says we're 'woefully ill-prepared'

Do you think you’re ready to age well in this country? It’s a question we don’t often think about. But it's never too early to start thinking about growing older.

Ask Tara Sklar about the current state of aging in this country, and she’d tell you we are “woefully ill-prepared.”

"And it's really not an option to continue to do nothing," she said. "And it's not an option either to continue to say, well, it's your personal responsibility to figure it out. It's just not sustainable. 

Sklar is a professor of health law and the director of the health law and policy program at the University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law.  

"But I think that if you wanted to pick a single statistic that I think is most shocking is that in less than 20 years, the number of Americans over 85 is going to quadruple."

And at that point, she said many individuals will require additional services that go beyond health care. For example, transportation: How will older adults navigate cities and towns without extra support?

Another point Sklar makes is the desire of many Americans to age at home, "but we're not prepared for that," she said.

Not just as a society, but many individuals are not financially equipped to age well. As for programs like Medicaid, which pay for long-term care, Sklar is concerned about that, too. First, you have to be impoverished to qualify. Second, if you want someone to come to your home to help with things like bathing, the waitlist today is roughly three years. 

KJZZ senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.