Some 97 medical journals in 31 countries are participating in a theme issue on aging, a subject the lead editors on the project say "we can-and must-address globally." Although this is primarily a clinical-based endeavor, it's vital that managers and administrators rally around the cause.
By most indicators, the population age 65 and older is living longer and better than any elderly generation in history. In fact, life expectancy in developed nations has increased this century more than in all earlier centuries combined.
A longer, more active life for the elderly, coupled with a decline in the worldwide birth rate, means enhanced senior power. In the U.S. and Japan, seniors account for more than 13% of the population. In many European countries, the senior population exceeds 15%.
The surge in seniors and its impact on healthcare will become more apparent as the baby boom generation is dragged into its golden years. Providers should respond by developing more clinical and social programs for seniors. Geriatric medicine, assisted living, physical therapy, rehabilitation, Alzheimer's treatment and measurement of outcomes for senior patients are just some of the projects that deserve attention and funding.
Furthermore, because aging is a global issue, health managers around the world need to evaluate how nursing homes, home care and community-based programs are responding to the needs of seniors.
This is an international challenge, but the heavy lifting must come at the local level. As Knight Steel, M.D., professor of geriatrics at the New Jersey Medical School, wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association, "A healthier older population benefits not only the aged and those who must care for them, but all who will join this group in the future."