Over the course of their lives, Boomers have benefited from a multitude of medical advances. They were the first generation to benefit from many of the 20th century vaccines that reduced incidences of serious childhood diseases. Subsequently, new medical developments have reduced deaths from cancer, heart disease, and other serious health conditions.

But science has not been able to guarantee that the process of growing older will be free from illness or disability. As people age, health problems increase, a fact that Boomers are just beginning to face. While younger Boomers are still generally enjoying good health, older Boomers are beginning to confront health problems. In addition, although Boomers are aware of the need to be proactive in maintaining good health, many struggle to do so. A significant number of Boomers still use some form of tobacco, many are overweight and even obese, and most do not get recommended levels of exercise.

Although development of some health problems may be an inevitable part of aging, it is unlikely that Boomers will passively accept this fact.
Demand for more resources to meet their health care needs and new
research into the health problems afflicting them will most likely
increase. Even without this particular mindset, the mere fact of aging, combined with the large Boomer demographic, means that the number of older adults vulnerable to health problems is only going to rise. This will stress the nation’s current health care financing and delivery systems. Passage of the recent Affordable Care Act is an important first step to alleviating these stressors by implementing broad reaching health policies and practices. In addition, motivating individual behavior and lifestyle changes coupled with a preventative, lower-cost approach to medicine will also help to lessen the demands on our healthcare system.

Being able to access and understand health information and navigate complex health care systems will become an increasingly important skill for mid-life adults, and adults of all ages, to master – highlighting another potential role for public libraries.

Did you know?

A 20-year study found that attitudes about aging have more impact on life expectancy than cholesterol, smoking or exercise.


Redefining Aging: Physiological Evolution – 2007 (0:30)

Walter Bortz, MD