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Effects of Changing Demographics on Aging Population

Effects of Changing Demographics in the Aging Population
The American population is aging and in the coming years the country faces numerous challenges relating to the rapid growth of the aging population. According to Jacobsen, Kent, Lee, & Mather (2011), ???There are 40 million people in the United States aged 65 and older, but this number is projected to more than double to 89 million by 2050??? (p. 2). This proportion directly affects the economy and the health care system. As the Baby Boomers reach retirement age their medical needs increase, leaving medical facilities at a disadvantage. Within this case study, particular challenges are indicated well as how these challenges affect the demographics of the aging population. This group of people responds best to particular marketing strategies, which will be described as well.

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Targeted Population
The aging population in the United States describes the population over the age of 65. History proves as a person grows older his or her medical needs increase. This in part is attributed to increased disability, decreased mobility, and a compromised immune system. When the Baby Boomers??”or Americans born between 1946 and 1964??”reach retirement age or 65 the health care industry will be inundated with patients seeking medical attention. Assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and hospitals will be even more crowded and the medical staff needed within these facilities must increase.
Currently, a woman??™s life expectancy is higher than that of a man??™s. As this trend continues, women will make up the majority of the aging population. Another key demographic is that the majority of the aging population is between the ages 65 and 74. Americans are living longer than in previous generations, but those aged 74 and older make up a smaller portion of the aged population (Jacobsen, Kent, Lee, & Mather, 2011). The wealth or poverty levels of the aging population vary dramatically. Non-married older Americans tend to have a higher poverty rate than their married counterparts. ???Among adults ages 65 and over, 40 percent of women and only 19 percent of men live alone??? (Jacobsen, Kent, Lee, & Mather, 2011, p. 4).

Effects of Changing Demographics
Just as the end of the war and return of the soldiers made an undeniable impact on the population (resulting in the Baby Boom), the aging Boomers will have a definite impact on health care market. ???The aging of the baby boom generation, the extension of life, and progressive increases in disability-free life expectancy have generated a dramatic demographic transition in the United States??? (Oshansky, Goldman, Zheng, & Rowe, 2009, p. 842). As the demographics within the aging population change, other aspects of the health care industry. As life expectancy increases, the old grow older and live longer. This has a vast effect on health care costs and the need for more health care professionals. As health care costs are concerned, the growing elderly population will put an enormous dent in Medicare funding, in addition to Social Security benefits and health care facilities??™ budgets. According to Kotler, Shalowitz, & Stevens (2009), ???the aging population requires more practitioners who perform colonoscopies (gastroenterology), cataract removals (ophthalmology), and other geriatric services??? (p. 24). This necessary increase in workforce creates more jobs but increases costs for the organizations.

Challenges Facing the Aging Population
The aging population within the United States faces many challenges in the coming decades. One challenge in particular is the rising cost of health care, for both the organizations and the patients. As health care costs continually rise and Medicare costs also rise, the aging population faces the inevitable increase in out-of-pocket spending. Generally older Americans have limited income after retirement, so any out-of-pocket expense increase stings. Similarly, organizations receive lower Medicare reimbursement rates causing them to pay more per Medicare patient or refuse Medicare recipients altogether, resulting in more strain on the aging population.
Another challenge older Americans are facing is the propensity for illness, thus more medical care. Studies and history support the need for medical care increases as age increases, especially those over the age of 65. Preventive care such as regular immunizations and cancer screenings can increase the health and wellness of the elderly, thus reducing costs all around.

Wellness Program and its Cost
Wellness programs geared toward older Americans can result in reduced costs and decreased financial burden on the industry and the patients. Preventive care is extremely important to the health of individuals. Hospitals or companies offering places for elderly Americans throughout the country to gather together and learn about wellness, preventive care, and topics affecting the population can prove to be very beneficial. Taking an active role in one??™s prolonged health is essential to living a longer, healthier life. Wellness programs keep patients healthier longer, thus prolonging or avoiding the need for long-term care, thus cutting costs within the health care industry.

Marketing Needs
The elderly require special marketing needs and techniques that differ from younger generations. Older Americans are generally resistant to new technologies, so technologically savvy marketing is not applicable. Use of advanced medical terms or conditions could confuse the older generations, thus marketers should research the audience to which they are marketing their product (health care, medication, etc.). If marketing medications, ads should be clear, concise, clearly list side effects, and insist patients consult a physician. ???Not only is the older adult segment substantial in size, spending power, and political clout, but research suggests that older consumers differ from younger consumers in how they handle persuasive communication and act toward prescription drug information??? (DeLorme, Huh, & Reid, 2006, p. 256). If marketing a health plan, such as a Medicare plan, do not overload the patient with information he or she does not and will not understand. List monthly premiums and deductibles and covered services.

Addressing the Challenges
Individual patients, the community, and society can each address the challenges described in this case study. Patients can enter an honest, open relationship with his or her primary care physician in an effort to ask the appropriate questions and make the correct medical decisions. To address the challenge of health care costs, taking a proactive approach with the help of preventive care can reduce the costs for both patient and medical organization. The community can inform its elderly population of any free immunization clinics within the area, offer assistance to elderly neighbors by transporting them to appointments, or even by simply sharing a meal. It is human instinct and just respectful to help the elderly or care for them, and by prolonging their health and wellness the community can do just that.
Similarly, society must take a vested interest in caring for the elderly and aging population. Choosing a Medicare health plan can be confusing to even the most technologically savvy member of the younger generation, let alone an aging citizen.
Because the aging population is growing more rapidly than ever, it is important to help the aging population make medical decisions. Informing the population is the first step to addressing the changing demographics and challenges. When patients understand and retain necessary information, decision-making is easier. A nationwide marketing style shift focusing on preventive care whose target audience is older Americans makes medical decision-making run more smoothly and create a healthier, cost-efficient society.

Conclusion
As Baby Boomers reach the age of retirement, America is on the verge of the largest older population, or those over the age of 65, it has ever experienced. This growing population results in an increased necessity for medical attention that leads to an increased need for medical staff and increased medical costs. These challenges that face the health care industry must be addressed immediately. Making health decisions more elder-friendly and focusing on preventive care can alleviate costs by also creating a healthier population. Preventive care can prolong or reduce the necessity of long-term care, assisted living, and other geriatric care.

References
DeLorme, D.E., Huh, J., & Reid, L.N. (2006). Age differences in how consumers behave
following exposure to DTC advertising. Health Communication, 20(3), 255-266.
Retrieved from the EBSCOhost database.
Jacobsen, L.A., Kent, M., Lee, M., & Mather, M. (2011). America??™s aging population.
Population Bulletin, 66(1), 2-15. Retrieved from the EBSCOhost database.
Kotler, P., Shalowitz, J., & Stevens, R. J. (2008). Strategic marketing for health care organizations: Building a customer-driven health system. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Olshansky, S.J., Goldman, D.P., Zheng, Y. & Rowe, J.W. (2009). Aging in America in the
twenty-first century: Demographic forecasts from the MacArthur Foundation Research
Network on an aging society. The Milbank Quarterly, 87(4), 842-862.

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