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Growing Elderly Population and What It Means for Public Programs

Garcia & Artigliere

The elderly population in the U.S. is growing older, and this fact alone carries broad implications for publicly funded health programs and the future quality — or lack thereof — of elder care.

New research published in the “International Journal of Epidemiology” takes a look at the U.S. senior population and what that means for the country’s leadership. The researchers found that the total number of older people will increase by 135 percent between the years 2000 and 2050. In addition, the group of elderly age 85 and older, who will need the services of long-term care the most, will increase by 350 percent. By 2050, the number of seniors:

  • Over the age of 65 will increase to 20.3 percent from 12.7 percent in 2000.
  • Age 85 and older will increase to 4.8 percent from 1.6 percent in 2000.

While many countries are already dealing with the impact of an aging population, the U.S. will need to learn how to take care of this large portion of its population in the coming years. An aging population means more thought will need to be put into the organization and implementation of health care. Changes include:

  • A greater focus on chronic diseases like heart disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s
  • Greater health care needs in the face of health care worker shortages

What this means is that there will be a need to shift from one-time-visit treatments to long-term management of multiple ailments. Doctors and patients will need to develop stronger relationships to help aid care. The onset of chronic illnesses and disability also means that long-term care (i.e., nursing homes and long-term care facilities) may be needed.

The article notes that the U.S. will find it particularly difficult to integrate long-term care with the medical industry due to the fact that financing systems are so fragmented.

Another issue is the anticipated dearth of long-term care workers like home health aides and personal care attendants. Such jobs now are seen as somewhat undesirable due to difficult working conditions, hefty workloads and low pay. Registered nurses are already seeing shortages. That workforce will remain at about the same levels by 2020, which is 20 percent below forecasted workforce needs.

As our country moves forward, and the needs of the elderly become more pressing, we need to put an emphasis on their care so that cases of elder abuse become far more infrequent. If you have an elder abuse case, please call our elder abuse attorneys to help you through this difficult time. Please visit our website or call (800) 328-2630.


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