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MEDiversity Week returns in 2023 with a focus on anti-ageism and age-friendly care

University of Utah Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (UHEDI) will hold its fourth MEDiversity Week from October 23-27, 2023. In a series of discussions, panels, and events UHEDI will focus on the University of Utah’s designation as an “Age-Friendly Health System” and what we can continue to do to close health equity gaps for older Americans.

According to Dr. José E. Rodríguez, Associate Vice President for UHEDI, currently the nation’s health care system is not equipped to handle the growing number of older Americans who will be needing care in the next decade. “It’s a big problem we are going to have to face,” he says. Those born in the mid-twentieth century (between 1946 and 1964) are now entering their sixties and seventies. Known as the baby boomer generation, this group represents one of the largest generational cohorts in the country’s history, and it played an outsize role in shaping the political and economic landscape during the expansive post-war era.

But as more Americans now grow into their seventies and eighties, ageism has become a growing concern in the healthcare industry. The US Census Bureau predicts that by 2034, older Americans (those older than 65 years of age) will overtake the number of young people (defined as those 18 and under) in the country—and by 2060 older adults will outnumber young people by 15 million.

Over the last two decades in particular, the country has rapidly aged, increasing the national median age by nearly three-and-a-half years since 2000. Even as immigration has added more millennials to the population, the country’s median age has increased to 38.8 years. This phenomenon, sometimes referred to as the “graying of America,” has precipitated an increased awareness of the need to create greater parity for older Americans in terms of their quality of life, especially for those requiring health care.

Generally speaking, those in their later years often experience increased health care needs—but research also reveals higher risks for diabetes, stroke, and heart disease among some racial and ethnic groups as they age, due to exposure to racism and other political determinants of health. Other groups experience lower accessibility to health care as they age, and many suffer from increased economic pressures during the same stage of life. The National Institute of Aging (NIA) reports that “the causes of health disparities [as we age] are dynamic and multidimensional… [and require us to] consider the environmental, social-cultural, behavioral, and biological factors.”

In 2023, UHEDI will seek to examine a number of these issues to better understand what it will take to popularize and sustain U of U Health’s designation as an “Age-Friendly Health System” that can serve everyone and secure health equity for all.

To learn more about the 2023 MEDiversity Week activities, please sign up for the MEDiversity Newsletter or visit the University of Utah Health Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion website.