One of the greatest achievements to come of modern medicine is that humans are living longer than ever. Life expectancy is reaching new heights and showing no sign of dropping. More years to live, naturally, means more years spent in old age. It means more time to accumulate wisdom, and more time to share it with the young.
While longevity is cause for celebration, the sheer magnitude of the demographic shift to come is still cause for concern. The health and social needs of older adults are highly specific and complex. As their numbers increase, so too must the services and supports needed to sustain them. This leap in demand coincides with a similarly unprecedented decline in global birth rates, ruling out the possibility that younger generations will be able to step up and do the caregiving.
To age well, older adults must be able to access to many types of care, regardless of whether they are frail or homebound. That requires moving primary and emergency care away from the hospital and into the home and community, where care services can be delivered and received with greater ease, frequency, and consistency. Social care is also needed to help older adults address risk factors like loneliness and social isolation that, if left unattended, can be just as debilitating as physical health conditions.
A health system that providers older adults with a full spectrum of care services also makes room for the long term care and palliative care industries. These modes of caregiving combined can adequately attend to the duration and breadth, respectively, of health challenges faced by older adults.