Demographics of the Medicare Population

It is well known that the United States population is aging. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census, the number of Americans age 65 and older is expected to nearly double over the next four decades, from 43.1 million in 2012 to 83.7 million by 2050. Over the same time period, the number of people age 85 and older is projected to nearly quadruple, from 5.8 million to 19 million. The trend is driven mainly by the aging Baby Boomer population, as well as by increasing life expectancy.

The implications of this shift on the organization and delivery of health care, however, are less well understood. Researchers predict an increased need for chronic care to match the needs of older people with one or more chronic conditions. Care coordination and planning will become increasingly important as aging adults visit more providers across more settings. An aging population will also create new opportunities for organizations to align care with patient preferences and refocus attention on quality improvement programs that follow age-specific guidelines for treatment and screening. Closer inspection of how these themes may develop across the U.S. is warranted.


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The Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care is based at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and is supported by a coalition of funders led by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, including the WellPoint Foundation, the United Health Foundation, the California HealthCare Foundation, and the Charles H. Hood Foundation.