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Leading Health Trends for the 65 and Older

It goes without saying that with aging comes some level of declining health. However, new technologies and advancements in healthcare are changing the way people approach their health as they age, by allowing for more independence and control. According to statistics gathered by the American Hospital Association, by 2030 there will be more than 37 million people over age 65 in the United States1. They are looking for ways to address their medical needs and maintain strong and good health as they age, and many of them are adopting these top health trends.

It’s exciting to see some of the trends in healthcare that can keep older adults feeling fit:

  • Coffee for brain health,
  • Increase in the use of non-physician healthcare providers,
  • Fitness and health trackers, and
  • Telemedicine to avoid trips to hospitals and nursing home stays.

#1 Senior Health Trend: Coffee for Brain Health

Seniors have taken notice of recent research that shows that consuming caffeinated coffee on a regular basis may improve mental health and delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's 2.

About 26 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer's Disease (AD), and it is estimated that by 2025 about one in five people in developed areas, such as Europe and the United States, will contract AD3. AD is a disease in which proteins called amyloids congregate in the brain to form knots and tangles that eventually fill the majority of the brain, destroying its cells.4 One study noted that drinking three to five cups of caffeinated coffee per day during midlife may decrease the chance of contracting Alzheimer's later in life.4 Although not conclusive, the study's findings are very exciting for those of us who worry about AD in ourselves and in loved ones - and especially for those who enjoy their hot cup of coffee in the morning!

#2 Senior Health Trend: Increase in the Use of Non-Physician Healthcare Providers

Many Americans over the age of 65 are turning to healthcare professionals who are not M.D.s for their healthcare needs. The growing demand for healthcare is increasingly met by Nurse Practitioners, or Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). They are nurses who have completed additional training in fields such as Family Practice, Gerontology, Pediatrics, and Emergency Medicine.4

APRNs have the additional training required to diagnose diseases, initiate treatment plans, order tests, and prescribe medication as a doctor historically would.4

Seniors are also turning to Physician Assistants (PAs) for their healthcare needs. PAs play a similar role to nurse practitioners, but must work under a doctor's supervision.5 PAs can diagnose disease, initiate a treatment plan, write prescriptions, and order lab tests in collaboration with a supervising physician.5

Gone are the days when doctors were the only healthcare providers. Now, that responsibility is shared among a medical team that includes APRNs and PAs, and the result is an increase in the accessibility of healthcare to an aging population.

The availability of non-physician healthcare providers extends beyond traditional medicine and into integrative and functional medicine practices, as well. These practitioners treat the whole person - mind, body, and spirit - and seek to discover the root cause of an illness, rather than just treating the symptoms. The Institute for Functional Medicine website is a great resource to learn more about this aspect of healthcare, check it out to learn more about this topic.

#3 Senior Health Trend: Fitness and Health Trackers

Technology is not just for the younger generations. Seniors are increasingly using technology to monitor vital signs, such as blood pressure and heart rate.6

Not only are blood pressure and heart rate being monitored through consumer devices, but respiratory rate, temperature, fitness metrics, and other indicators of overall health are quickly, and repeatedly, measured with devices that anyone can purchase and wear (aka "wearables")7.

The flexibility and accessibility of high-tech solutions like Fitbit and Polar for health monitoring are prompting increasing numbers of older people to turn to technology as they age. One expert says that seniors are buying 17% of all wearable tech sold today.6 No doubt that number will rise as the numbers of seniors grow.

#4 Senior Health Trend: Telemedicine to Avoid Trips to Hospitals and Nursing Home Stays

Now, more than ever, the older people want to live fully independent lives, and the increased availability of telemedicine is helping them do just that.

Telemedicine enables patients to leverage technology, such as Skype and other video communication software, to consult with their healthcare providers virtually... without ever leaving the comfort of their home.8

While some argue that the quality of care available in telemedicine suffers, because the doctor or another healthcare provider is not physically present, telemedicine has proven useful with pre-stroke individuals and in hospitals where a specialist cannot be on call, such as in rural areas8. Telemedicine can be used anywhere there is a phone or Internet connection, making it an affordable and efficient solution. Senior citizens for whom independence is key are gravitating toward telemedicine for many of their healthcare needs.

These top health trends are changing the way we look at healthcare for seniors. Have you spotted a healthcare trend that we didn't mention? Connect with us on Facebook and share, we'd love to hear from you.

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1. Baby Boomers to Challenge and Change Tomorrow's Health Care System. Retrieved from http://www.aha.org/presscenter/pressrel/2007/070508-pr-boomers.shtml.
4. All in the balance: Nurse practitioners are ready to help meet baby boomers’ growing needs. Retrieved from https://www.nurse.com/blog/2013/06/03/all-in-the-balance-nurse-practitioners-are-ready-to-help-meet-baby-boomers%C2%92-growing-needs/.
5. How to Become a PA Specialized in Geriatrics. Retrieved from http://www.physicianassistantedu.org/geriatrics/.
6. Japsen, Bruce.(July 11, 2016). Wearable Fitness Devices Attract More Than The Young And Healthy. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2016/07/11/wearable-fitness-devices-attract-more-than-young-healthy/#42de3aa057df.
8. Kvedar J, Coye MJ, Everett W. (February 2017=4). Connected Health: A Review Of Technologies And Strategies To Improve Patient Care With Telemedicine And Telehealth. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24493760?dopt=Abstract.