Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A ‘Tsunami’ Is In The Forecast For America’s Aging Population

Elizabeth Bahm, reporting for the Association of Health Care Journalists, predicts a “tsunami” as the aging population is set to overload America’s medical resources. Experts predict that a collision is about to occur between a shortage of professionals and an expanding aging population. The aging baby boomer population will mean that the numbers of those 65 and older will leap from 39 million today to a projected 89 million by the 2050. The jump in population will be even greater for those over 85, the fastest growing population. Their numbers will rise from 4 million today to 20 million in 2050.

This rapidly expanding population of aging Americans will put new demands on areas of medicine such as geriatrics and long-term care, yet the numbers of practitioners in these fields are dropping almost as fast as the numbers of their potential patients rise. 
Herbert Sier, associate chief of geriatric medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said that the Alliance for Aging Research projects that 14,000 more geriatricians are needed to address the needs of the current aging population. Yet numbers in the field, which currently counts 7,600 practitioners, are falling, down 22 percent in the last 10 years.  Meanwhile, the culture of geriatric care may be contributing to the shortage of nurses and doctors entering the field.  Low pay and practice settings that appear unattractive may be driving away students.

And that doesn’t begin to consider the impact of the rationing predicted as a result of Obamacare.

Photo Credit: iStockPhoto/deanm1974

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