Understanding the changing demography of the growing older adult population is essential to providing quality medical care to older adults. With the growing numbers of adults older than age 65 years, almost every medical specialty will be impacted by this phenomenon. The fastest growing population cohort in the United States are adults older than age 85. Understanding the differences in older adult care for the young-old and old-old provides an important basis for the study of geriatrics. In fact, individual variation is more pronounced in the older adult population than in any other age group. The chapter aims to explain the urgent and growing need for health professionals to be skilled in the care of older adults.
Over the last century the world has dramatically aged. Life expectancy has steadily increased, particularly in the developed world. There are many reasons for this significant increase in life expectancy including improvements in hygiene, sanitation, and medical advances. At the same time, birth rates have declined. The net effect on society as a whole is an older population.
This aging of our society is expected to have many farreaching consequences on the U.S. and world culture, economy, social relationships, health care delivery, and governmental responsibilities. An aging population will have an impact on everyone in society regardless of age. Moreover, population aging is occurring around the world, most notably in developed countries, but also to a significant extent in the developing world.