“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.”
—HIPPOCRATES (CIRCA 460 TO 377 BC), GREEK PHYSICIAN,
CONSIDERED THE FATHER OF MODERN MEDICINE
As we approach the second decade of the 21st century, physical medicine and rehabilitation have come of age. At no other time in history has the population at large (and, yes, the medical community) recognized the importance of hands-on, noninvasive approaches to health care. In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics recently announced its national job projections for the next decade, predicting the need for physical medicine and rehabilitation practitioners is expected to steadily increase through 2016.
Apparently, this predicted increase in therapist positions is happening in the nick of time for 76 million aging Baby Boomers.
Science Daily1 recently released a study by the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) that the aging generation is facing a shortage of skilled medical professionals that will be called upon to treat the inevitable need Boomers will face as their health deteriorates. According to GSA President Lisa Gwyther, MSW, “Complex chronic illness is an issue that we all will face with age. The current fragmented system of care desperately requires an increase in better-prepared personnel to sustain itself.”
This presents an interesting opportunity for physical, occupational, and speech-language therapists to expand their practices. For example, since many Boomers will remain a fixture in the workforce well past age 65 (the traditional retirement age), therapists can encourage this graying generation to adopt preventive methods to help maintain good health. In the community, therapists can launch health-awareness programs for the aging. In the workplace, PTs and OTs can work with employers to help coordinate programs geared toward older workers (such as sensitivity awareness, exercise regimens, and age-appropriate safe-work habits to aid in the reduction of on-the-job injuries). Also, therapists can provide their aging clients with the benefit of cutting-edge technologies and hands-on modalities to help relieve them from the conditions (such as arthritis, sports injury, and other conditions) that cause pain and physical limitations. Occupational therapists can offer the techniques and accessories of daily living to help individuals deal with physical limitations resulting from arthritis, stroke, and other physically debilitating conditions.
With physical and occupational therapists helping them along the journey, Baby Boomers might discover that growing older wasn’t as bad as they thought.
—Rogena Schuyler Silverman
- Baby boomer health care crisis looms. ScienceDaily Web site. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080417111300.htm. Accessed September 8, 2008.