The institute of Medicine's report on EMS sorted a recent year's data for ambulance transports to emergency departments by patient age:
Ages 65 to 74 accounted for 27.5 percent of transports;
Ages 75 and older took an additional 40%.
Many older Americans are working longer, and I expect boomers are only going to increase that trend. Seniors are healthier than in previous decades, even in spite of health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and substance abuse. Our journey into old age will play out rather predictably. Early on, healthcare will focus on maintaining good health to enable work productivity and leisure enjoyment. Inevitably, though, we will run out of time. For those of us fortunate to reach old age, the months/years immediately preceding our elderly death is when many of us will spend an increasing amount of time and money on healthcare.
Here are some more elder facts:
In 2011, most baby boomers will begin to turn 65.
By 2026, the population of Americans ages 65 and older will double to 71.5 million.
Between 2007 and 2015, the number of Americans ages 85 and older is expected to increase by 40%.
The fastest growing segment of the population is individuals over age 80.
If you make it to age 65, the average life expectancy is an additional 18 years (i.e., 83).
The question thus becomes more prevalent: at what point does the desire for life quality outweigh the desire for life quantity? Think about what makes life worth living for yourself. Whatever is on your agenda, the older you get, the more likely you will suffer the loss of those quality indicators.
You should understand that there are those who have reached the reality of this point.
It can't be an easy reality with which to deal. So do your part when dealing with the elderly, especially if they are your EMS patient. Respect the patient's independence (or what might be left of it). And, don't assume the patient's complaint is always due to old age.
Now take Robert Small. He's a guy who understands that you're never too old to help others. At age 60, he began a new career as a New York City EMT. Rock on, brother.