Preparing for the ‘Silver Tsunami’ and the Impact of an Aging Population on Cancer Care
By Jimmie Holland, MD, and Mindy Greenstein, PhD
Geriatric oncology must take the lead in planning ahead to weaken the force of the approaching ‘silver tsunami,’ preparing oncologists and their teams, who will take the most direct hit. —Jimmie Holland, MD, and Mindy Greenstein, PhD
“Older adults constitute the only increasing natural resource in the entire world.”
—Linda Fried, PhD, Columbia School of Public Health
“The good and bad news about our changing demographic world is that the population of older adults is increasing in the United States and worldwide. While it is good news that people are living longer and healthier, this increasing number of older people will also need health care for largely chronic diseases, especially cancer.
In 2013, the Institute of Medicine suggested that we prepare for this change,1 given the aging population, increase in cancer incidence, and the fact that of the 14 million cancer survivors in the country, 59% are over 65. These circumstances are evolving in the context of increasingly expensive and complex treatments for cancer, which will have to be delivered by a workforce that is likely to remain the same. Geriatric oncology must take the lead in planning ahead to weaken the force of the approaching “silver tsunami,” preparing oncologists and their teams, who will take the most direct hit.”
“We must prepare for the coming increase of older patients with cancer. We must understand and inoculate against negative societal attitudes by adding psychosocial issues to geriatric oncology curricula. It is important both to identify lonely elders with cancer and help set up social contact for them in any way possible.
Finding something meaningful to engage in is very useful. Phone therapy is one way to establish regular contact; encouraging interactions through reading and social exchanges is another. It is also important to note models of older people who cope well, thanks to character strengths honed over many years.”