"The aging of the global population will be a hallmark of the 21st century, when average lifespan may reach 100 years in some countries, at least for women. Worldwide, the proportion of the population aged 60 years or older is expected to increase from 10 percent worldwide in 2005 to 22 percent in 2050, with the steepest rise in the next 25 years. Individuals aged 85 years or older are the most rapidly increasing segment of many populations," according to an editorial in the December 23/30 issue of JAMA
C. Seth Landefeld, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues write that aging will shape the lives of patients and the practice of medicine, and that physicians will spend more time caring for older individuals. "Although physicians are knowledgeable about the pathophysiology, diagnosis, and management of organ-specific diseases such as cataract, coronary artery disease, and pneumonia, many geriatric syndromes are not straightforward and do not fit the conventional paradigm of disease. Are physicians ready for these challenges? How can physicians prepare to meet the needs of patients as they age?"
"The Institute of Medicine's 2008 report Retooling for an Aging America concluded, 'The health care workforce ... is not prepared to deliver the best care to older patients.' This new series takes a step to address this problem."
The overall goal of this series will be to help improve clinical practice and inform policy in care of older individuals, especially those who have started to lose their independence or are at risk of doing so. "Using the real stories of patients and interviews with them, the new series will analyze how to put existing evidence into practice to address pressing questions that arise for older patients, their families, and their physicians. By focusing on older patients' specific problems, the articles will explore themes that develop with aging," the authors write.
The first 12 articles will explore the course of aging, from the first hints of frailty through events such as difficulty driving a car to the progressive restriction of activities that results from a steady decline. "The series aims to provide clinicians with pragmatic tools and methods for translating published evidence into daily practice, or if evidence does not exist, recommendations with a rationale and a potential research agenda."
"Care of older patients often brings joy and satisfaction to their physicians. With enhancement of their knowledge and skills, all physicians have the opportunity to share in this meaningful and important work, which will be the main work for many in the aging century. With this new series of articles focused on geriatric issues and their policy implications, JAMA
begins to enhance physicians' ability to do so."
In the first article in the series, David Reuben, M.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles, discusses the approach to care of older patients beginning with a consideration of life expectancy and patient goals. Such an approach helps tailor the patient's visit to issues of greatest importance to the patient and interventions to maximize prevention, independence, and quality of life. An accompanying commentary by Christine Cassel, M.D., President of the American Board of Internal Medicine, addresses necessary changes in workforce support for primary care, training requirements, payment reform, research, and systems to improve care of older adults.