Lead Author(s): 

Beatrice J. Edwards, MD

Supporting Author(s): 

Sylvia I. Watkins-Castillo, PhD

Demographic shifts have changed the landscape of the United States. The growth in the number and proportion of older adults is unparalleled in US history.  Aging baby boomers and longer life spans combined will double the population of older Americans (age 65 years or older) during the next 25 years to about 72 million. By 2030, older adults will account for roughly 20% of the US population.1

During the past century, there has been a change in the leading causes of death for all age groups, including older adults, from infectious diseases and acute illnesses to chronic diseases and degenerative illnesses. Nearly half (42%) of all Americans, and four of every five older Americans, have numerous chronic conditions.2 Treatment for this chronic-conditions population accounts for 90% of the country’s 3.5 trillion annual healthcare expenditures.2, 3

The ability to move (mobility) is essential to everyday life and central to health and well-being among older populations. Impaired mobility is associated with a variety of unfavorable health outcomes. As the proportion of older Americans continues to increase, aging and public health professionals have a role to play in improving mobility for older adults. Gaps exist in the assessment and measurement of mobility among older adults who live in the community, particularly those who have physical disabilities or cognitive impairments.

Older adults are prone to higher rates of nearly all musculoskeletal conditions than those found in younger people. In large part, these conditions can be attributed to wear and tear on bones and joints over a lifetime. However, some musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain are equally prominent in younger age populations, particularly those in their middle ages.


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