For Immediate Release
Date: Apr 6th, 2012
Contact: Dr. Robert Henry
The "New Old" Still have Teeth
The number of older Americans will continue to rise well into the next century…
According to the Census Bureau, the numbers of persons in the United States over age 65 will more than double between now and the year 2050. Currently, the older population (65+) numbers 40.4 million, representing over 1 person in every eight, or 13.1% of the U.S. population. By 2050, as many as 1 in 5 Americans, will be elders growing to 80 million strong, mainly as a result of the “baby boomer” generation reaching 65. In fact, because of the boomers (those born after the World War II veterans came home classified as births from years 1946 to 1964) the fastest growth rate of elders of all time will occur between 2010 and 2030 when the number of elders will grow by an average of 2.8 percent annually, compared to annual growth rates of 1.3 percent during the preceding 20 years. (1)
…especially for the oldest old.
The “oldest old” – those aged 85 and over—are the most rapidly growing elderly age group. In 1994, the oldest old numbered 3 million, making up only 10 percent of older Americans, and just over 1 percent of the total U.S. population. With the arrival of the baby boom generation, it is expected that the oldest old will number 19 million in 2050, which would make up 24 percent of elderly Americans and 5 percent of all Americans. (2)
We’re living longer.
When the United States was founded in 1776, life expectancy at birth stood at only 35 years. It reached 47 years in 1900, and jumped to 68 years in 1950. Since then, the life expectancy has steadily risen to 76 years in 1991. In 1991, life expectancy was higher for women (79 years) than for men (72 years). In 2009, a child born could expect to live to 78.2 years, about 30 years longer than a child born in 1900. In 2009, persons reaching age 65 had an average life expectancy of an additional 18.8 years (20.0 years for females and 17.3 years for males). Despite the continued increase in life expectancy in the U.S., some research has suggested that life expectancy may decrease in the future primarily due to past smoking and current obesity levels, especially for women age 50 and over. (1,2)
What does the growth of older adults mean to dentistry?
As a baby boomer myself, I have been a part of the explosion that is shaping not only our communities but our profession. The “new” older adult patient today and in the future, will not only be better educated, but strive to be healthier longer, and will more likely be better off economically. This translates to many elder patients reading and asking about dental concerns previously reserved to professional journals but now readily available on the internet. Similarly, the likelihood of older patients, coming to see us with multiple, chronic, or debilitating medical conditions and asking for implants, veneers, or crowns as they wait, will drive our profession to improve our technology and our science. Having elders as our patients who are able to financially afford any treatment they choose will challenge us to keep up with the ever expanding advancements in our field, and to communicate why certain treatment options are indicated in specific circumstances, or to risk losing our patients to the practitioner who can and does.
What this issue has to offer…
I have asked two of my colleagues to contribute to this issue. Dr. Don Falace, Professor and Former Division Chief of Oral Diagnosis, Oral Medicine, and Oral Radiology at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry, has co-authored with me an article on the “Myths and Realities of Aging”, based on a lecture Dr. Falace gave at the American Academy of Oral Medicine Meeting held in 2009. Dr. Pam Stein, Associate Professor, in the Department of Public Health and current Course Director for Geriatric Dentistry and winner of the Great Teacher Award in 2011 at the University Of Kentucky College Of Dentistry, has contributed an article: “Older Adults, Chronic Disease, and Oral Health: What’s the connection?”, which focuses on the relationship between the mouth and chronic disease and the rest of the body
…is a review and update on the older adult.
Thanks to Dr. John Thompson for asking me to write the editorial for this issue. If it wasn’t for his asking, I wouldn’t have stopped to reflect that I am now one of the official “old-time” dentists” myself, having celebrated our class graduation from dental school 30 years ago (1981). I thank you the readers, who continue to strive for excellence in this profession, by being members of organized dentistry, for attending meetings, and for keeping up with your professional education. Whether by
reading articles, or attending courses, our responsibility for learning and improving is never done. Finally, I thank my patients who have given me the privilege to practice on them. I hope that all of you, who are reading this, truly enjoy practicing dentistry on your older patients as much as I have. Finally, I also hope that you will find something interesting or that you can use in this issue, and that if you have something you would like to add or comment on, please do so by contacting me at the following e-mail. Remember, May is Older American’s Month. This year the theme is “Never too Old to Play”! Have fun seeing your older patients!
Dr. Bob Henry
1) A Profile of Older Americans: 2011 Dept. of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging. 1-5.
2) Sixty-Five Plus in the United States: Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division. On-line accession. Last Revised: October 31, 2011: file://E:/Sixty-Five Plus in the United States.htm