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Fact Finder: Aging Baby Boomers Pt.1

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what happens when the child has to take care of the village? Doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes are bracing for the swell of seniors expected to redefine healthcare.

The healthcare industry is looking for its own vaccination against a potentially crippling illness. It's brought on by 78 million baby boomers soon to crowd hospital halls. Seniors are living longer, keeping more elderly people with us than ever before.

"As you age, every decade after fifty-five, the frequency with which you use healthcare grows drastically, as much as fifty-percent a decade," said Dr. Ferdinand Venditti, Vice Dean of Clinical Affairs at Albany Medical Center.

The Capital Region statistically has an older population already than others in the nation. While it is expected to grow, the number of doctors may not.

"The physician population is made up of the same baby boomers, in many cases, as the rest of the population and they're going to age out over time," Dr. Venditti said.

There are already fewer beds for patients.

When asked if this is something that the current nursing home, or extended care model, is ready for, Michelle Mazzacco said, "the part of that, that worries me the most is the workforce side of that."

Fewer people will also be paying in to health insurance plans.

"It's not just about a growing aging population, but there's a shrinking younger population," said Dr. Philip McCallion, sociologist and director of the Center for Excellence in Aging Services at UAlbany.

Studies suggest boomers visit the doctor and the emergency room more often than their parents did and will continue to. Albany Med sees the trend in its departments.

"They're in higher and higher demand everyday," Venditti said.

For instance, one in four is expected to have diabetes. The price to pay for it is an ailment on its own.

"We really are just at a point with healthcare costs that we can't afford for them to become a greater and greater percentage of the GDP. State Medicaid systems are really at their tipping point so, looking at how to manage patient outcomes better," Mazzacco said.

Especially if our neighborhoods will be looking older -- sooner.

"Baby boomers themselves are going to be very active in trying to shape what health care looks like, what long term care looks like, because they've shaped everything else," McCallion said.

There are several remedies being tested now, before the healthcare industry is too sick to heal.

Nurses and doctors are relying more on technology to keep costs for families down, and keep families together at home. On CBS6 News Tuesday at 11:00, we look at the solutions others are looking at to meet the demands of aging baby boomers.

 
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