An Aging Nation: Part Two

By  | 

Access to affordable health care and preventive services is a growing concern among older adults. They remain at greater risk of suffering from acute and chronic diseases.

Today's baby boomers are trying desperately to stay healthy and maintain their independence. Many are also caring for aging parents. So with all this focus on health care, the question is: is the industry ready?

Dr. Craig Beard is an orthopedic surgeon. Sixty percent of his patients are baby boomers. He spends much of his day replacing joints and helping people keep old age at bay.

"Those patients don't hold up as well. They want to be active, but [their] bodies just aren't holding up,” Dr. Beard said.

Baby boomers have already coined the term "Boomeritis", where they require medical attention to maintain their active lifestyles.

The demand for cardiology is also on the rise in the wake of the aging baby boomer population.

Wade Stone is vice president of Administration at the Medical Center. He's involved in short term and long term planning for the facility.

"We have to approach our planning to address those needs on a variety of levels,” Stone explained.

One of those levels will be home health care. More and more aging Americans have the urge to grow old at home.

"I think home health services will increase because more folks will want to stay home and not stay in long term facility if they don't have to,” Stone said.

One of the big changes to watch will be the changing ratio between the numbers of working people to the number of retired people.

The ratio of people 65 and older to those ages 20 - 64 is expected to reach 41 percent in 2050.

WKU Economy Professor Dennis Wilson said this may mean needed services aren’t as readily available.

"They may not be available as some people desire but they are available,” Professor Wilson said.

However, he is downplaying the overall impact. He added, "May there be a lag? Certainly. Is it a catastrophe in health care? Absolutely not.”

Wilson said a greater concern in the health care industry will be how we go about paying for it. Dwindling pensions and rising health care costs will be a struggle.

Dr. Beard said finding orthopedic surgeons is already a challenge. His office needs two more.

Baby boomers with “Boomeritis”, wanting to maintain their active lifestyle aren't going away, they're just going gray. So the shortage will likely just get worse.

Last week, Greenview Regional Hospital held an open house for its new orthopedic and neurosurgical center.

When you think of the changing health care needs, don't rule out the come back of doctors making house calls.

Stone said he's read a lot of literature that the house call mentality is making a comeback. Providers think that has potential but it's often tied to reimbursement.

For more on house calls log onto the News-Press: Health & Fitness article, House Calls Make Trial Comeback.

Friday night, we'll look at how the community has been involved in planning for the future, in Part Three of An Aging Nation.