The Elderly as a Sensitive Population in Environmental Exposures: Making the Case

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Abstract

The population of the United States is aging. A demographic shift of the average age in the United States is occurring rapidly and unavoidably. According to estimates, 20% of all Americans will be 65 or older by the year 2030 (CDC 2004), which is a serious concern for physicians and medical science (Geokas et al. 1990). Further, the average 75-year-old has three chronic medical conditions and uses five prescription drugs (CDC 2004; Qato et al. 2008). It is now recognized that infants and small children are not just miniature adults. Children have many unique anatomic, developmental, physiologic, immunologic, and psychological considerations (Milla 2002; WHO 2005; Williams et al. 2006). They have special nutritional and medical needs because of the immature state of their physiological and anatomical development. Similarly, the elderly are not just older adults with the same needs as healthy young adults. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes this difference and states that older adults have unique challenges and different medical needs than younger adults (CDC 2004).