Effect of Changing Patient Populations on Work in Health: The Elderly

An elderly patient at St. Elizabeths Hospital ...

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the average life span is expected to increase by 10 years by the year 2050 (2003, CDC link below).

Here are some statistics from the CDC regarding the increase in proportion of the elderly population. The number of individuals over 65 will increase from “12.4 in 2000 to 19.6% by 2030” which is in increase from “35 million to 71 million” (CDC, 2003). The number of individuals over the age of 80 “is expected to increase from 9.3 million in 2000 to 19.5 million in 2030” (CDC, 2003). (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5206a2.htm). 

How will this increase in the elderly population affect work in the health care industry? Increase in the elderly population will likely put more elderly in the health care system, and often elderly individuals have more illnesses and chronic diseases. This will require more health care workers in hospitals, urgent care centers, and nursing homes. Additionally, the increase in the elderly population may increase costs of health care.

What exactly does this mean for those working in health care? According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), “older adults have multiple physical, social, and psychological conditions, making the assessment, planning, and delivery of health care more complex than that of younger adults” (Mion, 2003, www.nursingworld.com). There is currently a shortage of nurses and other health care workers, such as nurses aids. How will the system handle a nursing shortage and an increase in a population that will require more care?

According to researchers Wiener and Tilly, there will be a shift from focus on acute to “chronic disease such as Alzhiemer’s Disease, heart disease, and osteoporosis” (776). They additionally stress that chronic illness is often accompanied by disability, so that nursing homes, adult day care, and similar facilties will be in demand (Wiener and Tilly, 2003, 776). Of course, that means that the demand for nurses, nurses aids, and other staff will also increase.

How else might the health care system need to change to accomodate this increase in the elderly population? Will we meet the financial and staffing needs in the coming years? These are some questions that those planning on going into the health care industry should consider.


Mion, L. (May 31, 2003). “Care Provision for Older Adults: Who Will Provide?” Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Vol. 8 No. 2, Manuscript 3. Available: www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/


Wiener and Tilly (2002). Int. J. Epidemiology 31 (4): 776-781. doi: 10.1093/ije/31.4.776



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