Geriatric health in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

Geriatrics refers to the health and care of the elderly. Geriatrics focuses on providing the special health care needs of older adults and works to prevent and treat disease and disabilities among this population. A geriatrician is a physician who specializes in the treatment of the elderly, but geriatric care involves a wide spectrum of health care professionals including, but not limited to, nurses, social workers, physical therapists, nutritionists, and psychologists. As of 2016, less than half of adults in the U.S. believed the health care system was prepared for dealing with the aging population. Furthermore, many older adults in the U.S. do not take measures to prepare for aging or death.

As older people are at greater risk of many diseases and disabilities, it is important for this population to avoid health risks that could increase the probability of these threats. However, in 2017, around 8.7 percent of adults aged 65 years and older still smoked cigarettes, only a slight decrease from the 8.9 percent that smoked in 2013. Furthermore, an estimated 28 percent of older adults in the U.S. were obese in 2018, an increase from 25.3 percent in 2013.

One of the worst diseases that older people face is inarguably Alzheimer's disease, with an estimated 13.8 million older people expected to suffer from the disease by 2050. In 2015, the death rate from Alzheimer's among those aged 85 years and older was 936 per 100,000 population. In comparison, the death rate from falls among this age group in 2016 was 258 per 100,000 population.

As adults age and their health care needs increase, the importance of health insurance and quality affordable health care treatment becomes clear. By 2025, it is forecast that 7.5 million older people will be enrolled in Medicaid, compared to the 6 million that are expected to be enrolled in 2018. In 2017, Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 years and older were expected to pay an average of 3,509 U.S. dollars annually for inpatient hospital services, but these costs rose significantly if the patient was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. In recent years there has been increased support among older adults for a government sponsored long-term insurance plan similar to Medicare, with 70 percent of older adults in 2018 stating they would support such a plan.

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