Meeting the health care needs of older adults will become increasingly important as the population continues to age. Older people have specific health care needs that may not be reflected in the broader population. For example, various changes associated with physiological aging—such as vision and hearing impairment—make older adults considerably more likely to need hearing aids and other related health care services and supports than younger people. They are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions that require lifelong or complex treatment (or that call for a medical device) and have unique health care service needs related to cognitive health and end-of-life care.
Older adults can also experience changes in cognitive health. Emerging evidence suggests that physical exercise, good nutrition, social interaction, stress reduction, sleep, and technological interventions can help maintain cognitive health and potentially reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and related dementia. Nevertheless, with an aging population, the number of people with cognitive impairments and related dementia will increase significantly and, with it, health care spending. Evidence-based interventions have the potential to improve quality of life for people living with dementia and their family caregivers, in part by more effectively addressing their needs within the community. However, despite a rapidly aging population, relatively few health care professionals specialize in caring for older adults, making it difficult for older people to obtain care that meets their specific needs and preferences. An effective health care workforce that operates at the full extent of its license and training is essential for ensuring access to high-quality, affordable patient- and family-centered care.