As professionals who deal with aging adults, we are always interested to read about new services and new products geared toward seniors. In many ways American society seems to be adjusting creatively to the fact that our nation is aging. Marketers in particular seem to have grasped the fact that, by the year 2030, about 31 million Americans will be older than 75 – the largest number ever in U.S. history.
However, there’s one glaring exception to this trend of accommodating seniors. A recent article in the New York Times asks a question we’ve been asking with increasing urgency: “As the population ages, where are the geriatricians?”
This compelling article shines a spotlight on one of the real paradoxes in today’s medical landscape. As the Times puts it, “Geriatrics is one of the few medical specialties in the United States that is contracting even as the need increases, ranking at the bottom of the list of specialties that internal medicine residents choose to pursue.”
Here at Aging Options we’ve advised thousands of clients of the importance of having a geriatric specialist as part of their team of medical advisors. “A geriatrician,” to quote the Times, “is a physician already certified in internal or family medicine who has completed additional training in the care of older adults.” Besides clinical care, “geriatricians are skilled in navigating the labyrinth of psychological and social problems that often arise in the aging population.” While some traditional physicians deny the need for geriatric specialists, those in the practice state that the special needs of seniors absolutely dictate the requirement for special training and certification to properly care for older patients.
According to statistics in the Times article, there are about 7,000 geriatricians in practice today in the United States. In the next 14 years the U.S. is going to need almost twice that many to meet the need. But because geriatricians earn less than other specialists, and because other specialties may offer more prestige, not enough medical students are gravitating toward geriatrics. Still, though, there are encouraging signs that this trend may be slowly changing as medical schools begin to train health care professionals “to see older patients through a geriatrics lens.”
If this issue is important to you – and we hope it is – we have some trusted local geriatricians to whom we can refer you. We also hope you’ll allow us to be your guide as you plan for a rewarding and secure retirement. That includes not only medical planning but other pillars of a solid plan: financial preparation, housing options, family dynamics and legal affairs.
One excellent way to begin the planning process is to attend one of our free LifePlanning Seminars. These are information-packed sessions that will provide you with a wealth of information to help launch your retirement planning process. Click on the Upcoming Events Tab on this website for dates, times and locations. Of course, if you prefer an individual appointment, it will be a pleasure to meet with you. Contact our office and we will arrange a mutually convenient time.
(Originally reported at www.nytimes.com)