A doctor holds a patient's hand and practices age-friendly health care

What Is Age-Friendly Health Care?

Bethesda Health | March 28, 2019

It’s no secret: As we get older, it’s likely that we spend more time with doctors. And as people are living longer and the number of aging people in America is growing, medical professionals and systems are going to experience increased pressure and demand. But are they properly set up and ready to accommodate the needs of aging Americans?

On a good day, the answer is: sometimes.

Age-Friendly Health Care: Meeting People Where They’re At

We’re defining “age-friendly health care” as care that centers the patient and his or her wishes in all health settings, from clinics to hospitals and emergency rooms, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, home care, and more. Age-friendly care meets patients where they’re at, not the other way around.

Age-friendly is not exclusive to older adults. The distinct health needs of infants are as demanding of attention as those of teenagers and people in their 30s, which is why this idea of age-friendly health care is so ubiquitous and should be on everyone’s radar.

“When we think about aging, we think about longevity and care across the lifespan,” says Alice Bonner, senior adviser for aging at the Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI), a nonprofit working to improve health care globally. “Age-friendly is about older adults, but it’s also really about families and communities. Age-friendly means a health system that is supportive and leads to good health outcomes for people at any age — not just older adults.”

The Goal: 20 Percent of Hospitals and Medical Practices by 2020

Bonner is working with IHI on its Age-Friendly Health Systems initiative, which outlines that every older adult gets the best care possible, experiences no health care-related harms, and is satisfied with the health care he or she receives. Partnering with The John A. Hartford Foundation, the American Hospital Association and the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the program’s goal is to grow age-friendly care to 20 percent of U.S. hospitals and medical practices by 2020.

Right now, however, older adults are too often receiving care that’s just not good enough.

“If health care professionals don’t understand the fundamental principles of how to care for older people, harm happens,” Bonner said.

Bonner gave the example of a physician not being educated on the basic principles of prescribing medications for older adults and adding too many medications or one that isn’t well tolerated.

“By sharing some of the very basic geriatric prescribing principles, we can prevent those kinds of things from happening,” she noted.

Age-friendly goes beyond health care, too. Age-friendly housing, food access, transportation, and social environment are all needed to improve the health of the overall population.

Bethesda is dedicated to providing the best level of care for seniors. To learn more, contact us today and find more health and wellness tips on our blog.


By Grace Birnstengel for Next Avenue.

© Next Avenue – 2018. All rights reserved.

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