Aging Experts Say Improving Health Care for Aging Population Should Be Next President’s Priority

Aging Population

The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) launched the Vital Directions for Health and Health Care initiative to inform U.S. policy on better health for its aging population. Aging experts John Rowe, MD, the Julius B. Richmond Professor of Health Policy and Aging at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health; Linda P. Fried, MD; and Terry Fulmer, PhD., published a summary paper in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), titled “Viewpoint: Preparing for Better Health and Health Care for an Aging Population,” to explain the healthcare challenges facing the upcoming presidential administration.

In Brief: Four Key Areas to Improving Wellbeing of Older Persons

Dr. Rowe summarized the four key healthcare challenges at hand:

First, it is vital to develop more efficient and affordable methods of healthcare delivery for fragile patients with multiple impairments.

Second, the eldercare workforce must be strengthened by providing specialized care, and educational efforts must be made to keep geriatric healthcare practitioners up to speed.

Third, it is crucial to promote the social engagement of older people and increase the support of work and volunteer opportunities available to keep them engaged in their communities. Finally, Dr. Row highlights that end-of-life care needs to be transformed. He notes, “Improve system weaknesses through evidence-based approaches.”

Higher Demand for Eldercare Workers

Rowe also says there is a shortage of social workers, nurses, and public health providers available to senior citizens. He believes there is a significant “lack of sufficient training and demonstrated competence among all healthcare and public health providers who care for older people.”

The evidence rings true—most paid care for seniors is offered by nursing assistants and healthcare aids. The number of workers needed is estimated to increase by nearly 50% between 2010 and 2020. Rowe believes that healthcare workers need better incentives. The median hourly wages of certified nursing assistants in 2014 was just over $12, and for home healthcare aides, a mere $10.

More action must be put into place to fortify the eldercare workforce—this should be a priority for the next president.