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Some Hartford messages to help you make the case for geriatrics:

1. An aging population will transform our society and our health care systems in the next century.  

The demographics are clear; our society is aging and becoming more diverse.

  • The number of people over the age of 65 will double to more than 70 million by the year 2030.
  • The percentage of people over 65 will be approximately 20% of the entire US population. This is greater than the percentage of older people in Florida today.
  • The number of those over 85 may as much as quintuple to more than 18 million by the year 2050.
  • Centenarians are the fastest growing age group in the U.S. By 2050, there may be as many as 1 million people over the age of 100.
  • The percentage of people of color over the age of 65 will grow from 15% in 1995 to 34% of the older adult population by 2050 (AOA statistics).  Hispanics will account for about 17.5% of the older adult population, up from 4.5% in 1995 (AOA statistics).

But this growing population also presents important, though perhaps less obvious opportunities:

  • The process of reforming and integrating health care systems for older adults can help improve these systems for all of us.
  • Geriatrics and gerontology will attract increasing talent, and yield important health care innovations and new knowledge that benefit older adults and the rest of society.
  • "Old age" is changing, and our perceptions of old age must catch up with the new realities of retirement and the growing, productive abilities of 65, 75 and even 85-year-olds.
  • We must increasingly view older adults more positively, as valued and valuable citizens, as community assets, as a significant strand of the nation's broader tapestry.

2. Reshaping and improving health care is necessary to meet the needs of the growing number of older people.

Older adults require different kinds of medical care than younger adults.

  • Disease patterns are different; there is more chronic disease and often there is the co-existence of multiple diseases and conditions.
  • Older patients' preferences are different and highly diverse and generally reflect concerns about quality of life, rather than complete cure.
  • Cost-benefit patterns are different.

Addressing the psychological and social needs of older adults can improve their health, activity, and productivity.

  • Providing better patient information and caregiver training can improve the effectiveness of interventions and improve rates of independence.
  • Older adults often do not get the care they need because the components of the current health care "system" are too fragmented, and services are uncoordinated.
  • Current systems, developed to "cure" episodic, acute illness in younger people, can be modified, so that older adults receive coordinated, ongoing care designed to manage chronic conditions over time.
  • Redesigned reimbursement policies can attract physicians and other health care professionals to geriatrics and enable health care teams to manage the ongoing care older adults require efficiently and cost effectively.
  • Along with systemic reforms, community providers will always have to adapt health care innovations to fit local realities and the needs and preferences of a diverse older population.

3. We have to train more health care professionals qualified to meet the needs of older adults.

Our professional schools need to train more geriatricians, geriatric nurses, social workers and other health professionals who are well prepared to provide appropriate care for older adults and help their families navigate the complexity of our medical and supportive services systems.

  • Though we currently need approximately 20,000 geriatricians to care for older adults, only (7,000) are currently trained. By 2030, we will need 36,000 geriatricians (Institute for Medicine report).
  • Given the growing elderly population, we need significantly more faculty trained to prepare internists (1,400 faculty needed), family practitioners (1,300 faculty needed), psychiatrists (700 faculty needed), neurologists (800 faculty needed), and others.
  • There are 3.8 geriatricians for every 10,000 Americans over the age of 75. (2007 ADGAP study)
  • These schools must "gerontologize" the training of internists, family practitioners, and other physician specialists, as well as nurses.

Professional schools must augment the number of academic leaders who can:  

  • Provide us with new biomedical insights in aging research;
  • Develop new clinical innovations in geriatric care; and train the next generation of doctors, nurses, allied health care professionals (including dentists, pharmacists, public health officials, nutritionists, and physical, occupational and recreational therapists) and social workers to care for older adults.
  • Current practitioners and their disciplines must hasten to re-tool their capacities and competencies to meet the needs of an older population.

4. Aging research provides the knowledge we need to live longer and healthier lives and reduce the human and financial costs of caring for older adults.  Current practitioners and their disciplines must hasten to re-tool their capacities and competencies to meet the needs of an older population.

  • For FY 2000, the federal government appropriated $700 million for the National Institute on Aging and more than $17 billion total for the National Institutes of Health.
  • This investment in research pays real economic dividends. It serves as an engine for economic growth and productivity and may eventually reduce the per capita cost of health care for older adults.
  • Research and interventions that reduce the incidence or even lead to modest delays in the onset of the chronic diseases of old age can have dramatic human and economic benefits.
  • Aging research must continue to study the whole range of lifestyle and medical care choices people make throughout their lifetimes and provide our society with the information we all need to live better lives.
  • The new knowledge derived from aging research serves to improve the health and medical care of all people, not just older adults.
  • Scientists throughout the medical community must include more older adults in research protocols to understand age-related differences in treatments and outcomes.
  • Aging researchers must pursue more studies that examine the impact of race and ethnicity on health and care and that include members of under-represented minorities and women in their cohorts.

 

   
 
   
   
 

If you have to make the case in person, test and practice your messages with a trusted colleague or family member beforehand. You want to be sure you can state your arguments clearly and succinctly when you need to.

 
 
   
   
   
 

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