US Pharm. 2009;34(6):Epub.
In 2007, 37.9 million Americans, constituting 12.6% of the U.S. population, were over the age of 65. Ten million elderly people live alone in noninstitutional settings, with half of women in this category older than 75. Financially, 3.6 million seniors are below poverty level. About 20% of elderly individuals are ethnic minorities, with African Americans topping the list. The average life expectancy of the current elderly population is an additional 20.3 years for women and 17.4 years for men.
Health Status: The most frequently occurring chronic conditions in the elderly population are hypertension, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and sinusitis. Two-thirds of elderly individuals have received an influenza vaccination during the past 12 months, and 58% have received a pneumococcal vaccination. Although 25% of people over 60 years of age are obese, 25% of individuals between 65 and 74 years of age engage in regular leisure-time physical activity. Eight percent of seniors are smokers, and 5% drink excessive amounts of alcohol. Eighty-two percent of people who die of coronary heart disease are 65 years of age or older. Age-related macular degeneration is strongly associated with increasing age, particularly after the age of 60. More than a million elderly individuals have had an asthma attack or episode. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease has the highest prevalence rate (61 per 1,000 population) in people over 65 years of age and is the discharge diagnosis in 65% of hospital discharges.
Health Care: Eleven percent of elderly Medicare beneficiaries receive personal care from a paid or unpaid source. Almost all community-resident seniors with chronic disabilities receive either informal care (from family or friends) or formal care (from service-provider agencies). More than 90% of elderly people with chronic disabilities receive informal and/or formal care, and about two-thirds receive informal care only. About 9% of chronically disabled seniors receive formal services only. Since 1980, the average length of hospital stay for patients aged 65 and older has decreased from 10.5 days to 5.5 days, in contrast to 4.8 days for patients of all ages. Patients aged 65 to 74 years and 75 years and older, respectively, average 6.5 and 7.7 office visits to physicians. Per year, the out-of-pocket health care expense incurred by seniors is about $4,600, in contrast to $2,850 for the total population. Yearly health costs incurred by elderly individuals, on average, are $2,770 for insurance, $859 for drugs, $844 for medical services, and $159 for medical supplies. Currently, more than 2,000 drugs are being developed to treat diseases that predominantly affect the elderly population.