Why Better Care for Older Adults Is the New Medical Frontier
News As the human lifespan increases, the field of old age-related medical treatment is constantly changing. Here’s why geriatrics is the latest field of opportunity health care.
Americans are problem-solvers. When we see opportunities, we figure out how to seize them — and when something isn’t working, we rethink our approach. We have an opportunity to tap into our ingenuity right now. We need to think about how we are growing older, how we are innovating to support more years of well-being and how we are working toward the kind of health care system we’ll need in the future.
A complex challenge
As more and more of us live longer and healthier lives, this presents new opportunities for our communities. Yet we run the risk of losing out on this momentum if we don't think about the kind of health care we need as we age. That’s the expertise at the core of geriatrics, the health care specialty dedicated to new and smarter ways to approach our care as we age.
Geriatrics health care professionals are doctors, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, social workers, and many others expertly trained in caring for older adults. Geriatrics health care professionals understand the unique health circumstances and preferences that come with aging.
They also have expert training in collaborating with one another — a critical asset, since more than half of older Americans are managing two or more chronic conditions — and many older adults are making decisions with partners, family members, or other significant people involved in their care.
“Some states are already offering loan forgiveness incentives for future geriatrics health care professionals ...”
A growing field
The opportunities available to future geriatrics experts have never been greater. We need about 20,000 geriatricians today to staff up for the needs we have right now, yet there are less than 7,300 certified geriatricians practicing nationwide. Knowing that we’ll need even more geriatricians — as many as 30,000 by 2030 — we need creative and forward-thinking colleagues and approaches to expand the workforce. And we’re making progress.
Some states are already offering loan forgiveness incentives for future geriatrics health care professionals, while other authorities are adopting core concepts in geriatrics — such as reducing hospital readmission rates and managing multiple conditions — as key measures of quality in health care.
When we see opportunities, we figure out how to seize them, and that’s exactly what geriatrics represents for the future of our health and care. The demand for the field’s expertise is growing, and this space is vibrant, rewarding, and full of opportunities.