A new wave of retiring seniors – the baby boom generation – will present the US health care system with challenges unseen before. The baby boom generation encompasses those individuals born between 1946-1964 following the end of the second World War which saw a dramatic spike in the US birth rate.
These seniors are living longer and are predicted to utilize health care services more and in different ways than previous generations. And, owing to their great numbers, they carry a great impact on numerous aspects of daily life – perhaps most importantly, health care. Dr. Kate Wilber, Ph.D, is a professor at USC Davis School of Gerontology. She believes that as the number of older adults rises in the United States in the coming years, we will also witness an increase in chronic conditions unique to the baby boom generation.
“Health care will have to continue to move from an acute care focus to a chronic care focus. The prominent physician and health care researcher Robert Kane notes that about 97% of health care dollars spent on people aged 65 and older is related to chronic conditions” Wilber said. Many older adults from this generation will have multiple chronic conditions, which will put additional pressure on hospitals. In fact, this cohort is also more likely to visit the doctor’s office than previous generations.
The result may be that health care professionals won’t be able to meet such high demand which will only be aggravated by the fact that many lack a background in care for older adults.
Dr. Diana C. Homeier, MD, an associate professor at Keck School of Medicine said, “The American Geriatrics Society has recommended that ALL physicians in ALL specialties receive training in Geriatric medicine – the specific needs of this population and the conditions that are commonly associated with it.”
However, a lack of geriatricians will consequently lead to less concentrated care for elders, and will put a strain on the healthcare system. The rise in chronic conditions and a need for geriatricians are twin issues that need to be addressed and dealt with directly, otherwise this baby boom generation will lose out on the quality care they need. Yet, just because these seniors are aged, that doesn’t mean they are helpless. The baby boom generation is unique in other respects. These seniors are also well educated, politically active, and outspoken, and they will demand quality health care services they believe they are entitled to. No matter what happens, this will be an exciting time in the health care field and prudent future professionals should come prepared.