“People are growing older and experiencing a much longer life span than that of prior generations. Many people over the age of 60 are healthier today and living in place within their home-based communities with noninstitutionalized care…To date, there has been precious little attention to how we discuss and frame aging through a public health lens.”
-- Elaine Jurkowski and Aaron Guest, "Healthy Aging Through the Social Determinants of Health," APHA Press, 2021
In 2034, the United States will have more adults age 65 and older than children. Historical gains in life expectancy are thanks in part to advances in medicine and public health and improvements in many social determinants of health. But these benefits have not been evenly distributed. Deeply rooted health inequities exist among subpopulations of older adults.
In particular, Black, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native people have shorter life expectancies and poorer health status, as do other demographic groups, including populations with lower educational attainment and those who have experienced poverty.
What can we do?
- Address ageism. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the impacts of ageism in health care, public health, long-term care services and supports, employment and housing have contributed to high death and illness rates among older adults.
- Follow recommendations included in such guidance as the World Health Organization's healthy aging framework, the National Academy of Medicine's Vital Directions for Health and Health Care 2021 series and guidance from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force and The Community Preventive Services Task Force.
- Acknowledge ableism and its impact on an aging population. Two in five older adults live with a disability.
- Pay attention to the intersection of racism and ableism.
Healthy Aging Through the Social Determinants of Health (APHA Press)
Aging and Public Health Section
For media interviews with experts on this topic, contact APHA Media Relations. To connect with APHA members working in the field of aging and health equity, contact the APHA Aging and Public Health Section chair.
APHA Policy Statements (find more in the APHA Policy Statement Database)
Additional Frameworks for Public Health Action
Actualizing Better Health and Health Care for Older Adults (National Academy of Medicine)
Age-Friendly Ecosystems: global movement to advance how community systems enable older adults to thrive. Within the U.S., these networks include:
Aging (National Academy of Medicine)
World Health Organization
Alzheimer's Disease and Health Aging Program (CDC)
Administration for Community Living
Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (HRSA)
National Institute on Aging