Health care for the elderly is ailing

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The elderly represent one of every three hospitalized persons in the United States and as a group are five times more likely to die during their stay than younger patients, a federal study has found.

Experts say the survey by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows the need for medical professionals to increase their focus on caring for people 65 and older, with an emphasis on disease prevention.

They believe controlling illness and medical costs is imperative because the nation’s elderly will exceed 70 million by the year 2030 — twice the number in 2000, according to the American Geriatric Society.

The study, conducted through the federal Department of Health and Human Services, shows the elderly made up 34.7 percent of those hospitalized in 2003, even though they represented just 12 percent of the population. And elder hospitalizations resulted in 43.6 percent of the nation’s hospital bills, totaling nearly $329 billion.

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