Elder Care and Hospital Administration
Americans are getting older—disproportionately that is. Baby boomers (born after WWII) make up a big percentage of the U.S. age range, and they are set to retire. That’s going to create a pretty big need for healthcare services in the coming years, as those retirees age and develop geriatric health needs. In 2004, it was predicted that by 2030 the number of older Americans would double. The balance of elderly Americans to younger individuals will be quite different from what’s been seen in the past.
One of the reasons the impact of the baby boomer retirees will be so big is that Americans are living a lot longer these days than they used to. In fact, the average life expectancy for a child born in 2000 is 76.9 years. Fortunately for longevity, people thrive these days far past retirement. The good news is that the age-adjusted death rate for heart disease, stroke, and cancer is 64% lower than it was in 1950. So it is possible that longer lifespans don’t automatically mean lots and lots of sick people. Boomers may even choose to stay in the workforce longer than individuals from generations before them.
Health Services for the Elderly
However, an aging population brings a certain set of public health concerns to the average individual. Those over the age of 50 are the least likely to exercise out of the entire U.S. population. So, the need for age-appropriate exercise options and accessibility to exercise space is very clear.
According to at least one researcher, public health work is necessary to bridge the gap between general health promotion campaigns and targeted, individualized programs. In other words, there needs to be more overall information and resources for elderly people and their caregivers that is broadly disseminated, and at the same time, individuals have to know where to go to get the information and support needed for their specific case.
The Role of Hospital Management
Personnel management will be a huge need when it comes to taking care of the aging baby boomers. Under current estimations, America will face a shortage of both professional and family caretakers for this population. Therefore, the management of scarce people power will become an even more vital skill over time. This is a role that hospital administrators are uniquely poised to help fill, through hiring and employee management practices.
Navigating Health Insurance
Another important need that healthcare administrators can help fill is managing how medical institutions handle big government insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid. For example, hospital administrators might be able to play a role in finding new strategies for using Medicare to help elderly Americans thrive longer in outpatient or independent settings. These sorts of innovations could help reduce the overall cost burden on inpatient institutions.
In sum, America’s future population health will have a lot to do with how public health officials and hospital administrators handle the aging baby boomer situation. The next few years in particular could be a pivotal time to develop the supports and institutional infrastructures needed for long term sustainability.