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How will consumer demands shape the future health care system related to the senior population?

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The first element of consumer demand that will shape the health care market for seniors is is simply the changing demographics of most wealthy nations, in which the population of the elderly is an increasingly high proportion of the total population. This means that, for example, fewer pediatricians and obstetricians will be needed in proportion to specialists in geriatrics and chronic diseases. This also may means changing training of medical practitioners by including more training in geriatric care and the special needs of elderly patients.

Another important shift is that people are living longer in different ways than in the past. Many of the elderly are single and as child birth rates decrease, may have no families to care for them. This means that health care options will respond to the existence of independent elderly without family support structures. Also, as many of the elderly are relatively wealthy, their will be increased consumer demand for upscale retirement on the one hand, but also increased demand for an equally growing trend of impoverished elderly with high medical bills and no savings.

Next, many of the elderly desire to age in place, giving rise to homes redesigned to be accessible and intelligent, capable of using technology to let the elderly live independently longer by using things like mobile apps for safety and home health monitoring and even some forms of technologically mediated medical care delivery. Also, many transitional facilities, which allow semi-independent living, are being created which allow for gradual transitions from fully independent living to assisted living. This is a trend which will probably accelerate with an increasing variety of offerings and options which integrate health care into part of senior lifestyle communities rather than separating healthcare into distinctive purely medical facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes.

Although medical advances can prolong life, there is increasing debate about the degree to which life should be prolonged with hospice care and physician-assisted euthanasia become increasingly popular alternatives to maximal interventions to extend quantity of life without attention to quality.

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Consumer demand will surely shape the future health care system for seniors, but perhaps not as much as consumer demand affects other markets.  The system will also be strongly affected by what the government and/or insurance companies can afford.

In a market economy, all markets are affected by consumer demand.  We can already see to some degree how this has been the case in the health care system.  There is more demand for various kinds of tests and anti-aging procedures than there once was.  We should expect to see more of that.  We might expect to see more demand for assisted living facilities.  In short, since there are going to be so many seniors with the aging of the baby boom, we will see a much greater demand for various types of care that seniors want and need.

But this will not be the only factor to affect the health care system.  This is because seniors will not generally be paying directly for their care.  Therefore, their wants and needs will be mediated through government programs like Medicare or through insurance companies.  Those entities are going to want to keep the cost of care down.  This will also shape the health care system because it will create boundaries and limits on the kind of care that most seniors will be able to get.

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