Aging and health: How are we doing?

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

The Senior Stutters Line Dancers of Valdosta performed a show at Lake Park United Methodist Church on March 1, 2011.

Image by Judy Baxter via flickr.

Did you happen to catch the new report from the CDC  – “The State of Aging and Health in America (PDF)?” This 60-page analysis provides a snapshot of the health and well being of older adults, including care and behaviors that impact premature death and disability, as well as the role of optimal mobility in healthy aging.  

The report points out that two of every three older Americans have multiple chronic conditions, and treatment for this population accounts for 66 percent of the country’s health care budget. Americans are living longer – but are they living better?

While most states have met at least some of the Healthy People 2020 goals, many lag behind on others – notably, improving preventive care such as flu and pneumonia vaccines, long-term care services and support,  increasing the number of geriatric care specialists and tackling elder abuse.  Long-term care is headed for a crisis, blogs Betty Ann Bowser on the PBS’s The RundownForbes says the long-term care system is “crumbling.”

A recent RAND study found  that while “greater use of geriatricians in the hospital setting could save money without jeopardizing patient outcomes, there is a shortage of geriatricians in the United States, with fewer than four certified geriatricians in the United States per 10,000 individuals 75 years of age or older. And, Administration on Aging data shows elder abuse is a growing problem, affecting “hundreds of thousands” of older adults each year.

The State of Health and Aging in America includes several calls to action, including  a new Healthy Brain Initiative Road Map, addressing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) aging and health issues, using data-guided interventions and addressing mental health needs of older adults.

Enhancing mobility is an another key recommendation. Mobility is central to daily life and crucial to health and wellness among older adults, and avoiding adverse outcomes, according to the report’s authors. Improvement in this area will come through modifying physical environments, and creation of unique, multi-disciplinary interventions specific to the specialized health needs of the older population. Additionally, the report emphasizes the need for government agencies,  health providers, community organizations, and the public to collaborate at all levels to achieve and surpass the objectives of Healthy People 2020.

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