The recession could last over 20 years as the economy struggles to cope with an ageing population and extraordinary levels of debt, experts have warned.
Even if the economy does start to grow, it will plunge one-fifth of homeowners into "real trouble" as rising interest rates stretch household budgets to breaking point, Holyrood's Finance Committee was warned.
The Scottish Government may have to abandon universal services for elderly people or tax the working population more to pay for it, experts said.
This could lead to "inter-generational breakdown" as young families with student loans and high mortgages resent being taxed to pay for free services for a "seriously lucky" elderly generation which grew up in an era of student grants and generous pensions, it was also claimed.
Health professionals may also have to consider "how protracted we wish to make people's deaths". One expert suggested asking older people if they want "do-not-resuscitate" notices in their homes if they are found by ambulance crews.
The committee heard from Colin Mair, chief executive of the Improvement Service, a partnership between local authority chief executives and council umbrella body Cosla, designed to improve the efficiency, quality and accountability of local public services.
Alan Sinclair, from culture and social care charity the Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing, and Professor Elspeth Graham, from the Economic and Social Research Council's centre for population change, also gave evidence.
Mr Sinclair said policymakers must "take into account the state of the Scottish, UK and European economy over the next two to three decades" in their projections for care for elderly people. "There is an implicit assumption that if we hold our breath, in five years things will get better," said Mr Sinclair.
He cited research by Harvard University professors Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff who modelled financial collapses from the last 200 years. They found that, on average, it took countries which had similar levels of modern debt 23 years to recover and had average negative growth of 1.2%.
Mr Mair warned that even if the economy does improve, society may be facing "an intergenerational breakdown of solidarity".