An overwhelming majority of Americans want to grow old in their own home, but for many senior citizens, aging in place is difficult. The State Department could create an au pair program, enabling senior citizens to receive the support they need to age in place, at no cost to American taxpayers.

A. An au pair for seniors program would especially benefit senior women.
B. An au pair for seniors program is an affordable option for seniors.
C. An au pair for seniors program would be a burden on taxpayers.

A. TRUTH! As of the 2020 census, the U.S. had approximately 55 million senior citizens, comprising about 17% of the population. It is estimated that the number of Americans 65 and older will more than double by 2040 to reach 80 million, with the 85 and older population quadrupling in that same period. This issue particularly affects women, who have longer life expectancies than men. About 40% of women ages 74 to 84 live alone, and that number jumps to 50% for women over 80. 

B. TRUTH! The average annual cost of receiving full-time support at home is about $60,000 per year. Live-in senior care facilities also cost about $60,000 per year. High-income seniors generally can afford to choose between in-home care and the growing market for “premium” senior residential facilities, and low-income seniors often receive support from means-tested programs like Medicaid. Sadly, middle-income seniors have too much money to qualify for means-tested programs but have too little money to afford the “crushingly expensive” cost of care without selling their homes.

The current cost of hosting an au pair for children is about $1,800 per month, regardless of the number of children in the host family. Unfortunately, the State Department is currently considering a proposed rulemaking that would increase the average cost of hosting an au pair by about $10,700 per year. Even if the proposal were finalized, raising the cost of hosting an au pair to about $30,000 per year, that price tag still would be substantially lower than the average cost of in-home senior care or a senior residential facility. 

C. LIE! One advantage of this proposal is that a regulatory and bureaucratic framework to support the au pair program already exists. Under the current au pair program, an au pair receives free room and board from their host family. Au pairs also receive a modest weekly stipend for discretionary expenses and other in-kind benefits from their host families, like cell phone coverage and access to transportation, as well as an educational stipend.

Families pay for the costs of hosting au pairs, therefore expanding the au pair program to include senior care would cost the government and American taxpayers nothing.

Bottom Line: 

Establishing an au pair program for seniors would be relatively simple to implement due to existing guidelines, and it could help thousands of senior citizens age in the comfort of their homes while receiving the care they need.

The State Department should expand its au pair program, which currently is limited to child care, to include senior care to provide elderly Americans with an affordable in-home caregiving option.

To learn more, read the Policy Focus on Au Pairs for Senior Care.