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Changes in Health and Health Care Needs As We Age

As we grow older, our health care needs change. You probably need different products, medication, and services than you did, say 10 or 20 years ago. That’s perfectly normal! These changes can happen quickly or slowly. Either way, changes in our health, or the health of a loved one, can be overwhelming.

With an estimated 73 million seniors in the U.S.,1 many are left wondering what products and services are available to keep them living independent and active lifestyles despite these health changes. If you’re one of them, you’ve come to the right place! We’ve researched the care, insurance, and technology available to keep you safe and well as your needs evolve.

Important Health Care Needs for Seniors

Important Health Care Needs for Seniors

Annual checkups with your general physician are just as important as the ones with your dentist, ophthalmologist, and audiologist. Whether you’re a busybody or a homebody, it can be tempting to skip these routine appointments with your health care providers if you’re feeling well. However, as we age, it’s vital to continue attending these appointments so these specialists can catch anything irregular early on. When it comes to our health, it is much better to be proactive than reactive!

Dental Care

Our gums recede and our teeth become less resilient with age. Seeing your dentist for yearly or biyearly exams and cleanings is essential to maintain oral health, prevent tooth decay, and treat gum disease. Unfortunately, Medicare does not pay for routine dental care. Many seniors pay out-of-pocket or use private dental insurance to cover the cost of dental care. If you’re eligible for Medicaid, your state may or may not provide dental coverage. There are also some low-cost options for seniors looking to save money on dental care.

Oral health issues among older adults are more common than you might realize. Let’s take a look at the stats below!2

Oral issue Tooth decay Gum disease Tooth loss
Percent of Seniors Who Experience Issue 20% 68% 20%

Vision Care

Since vision can deteriorate in our golden years, seniors often need corrective lenses, even if they’ve had great vision for most of their lives. Additionally, if you’re over the age of 60, you’re six times more likely to develop glaucoma, which, left untreated, can cause vision loss.3 If you’re still getting behind the wheel, making sure your eyes are healthy and your vision is sharp are necessary for your safety and the safety of others!

Since Medicare does not cover vision care, you’ll want to look into enrolling in a vision insurance plan or getting supplemental Medicare coverage. Our experts have created a list of the best vision insurance plans for seniors to get you started.

Hearing Care

Thirty-three percent of older adults over the age of 60 have some degree of hearing loss.4 Leaving your hearing loss untreated can lead to other problems, including cognitive decline. If you notice your hearing just isn’t quite what it used to be, speak with your health care provider about your options.

Unfortunately, Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of hearing aids, but it may cover a physician-ordered hearing test or treatment of a hearing-related condition. Some Medicare Advantage plans may partially cover the cost of hearing aids or exams. Check with your plan provider to review the details of your plan.

Insurance for Older Adults

Insurance for Older Adults

Talking health insurance over the age of 62 is complex. The health care landscape is complicated enough. Once you throw in the “Medicare alphabet soup” and supplemental insurance, it starts to make your head spin! Well, to simplify things a little, we’ve broken down the types of health insurance available to seniors and how to know if you are eligible for coverage.

Medicare

Medicare Part A

Medicare Part A covers hospice care and hospital expenses. Hospital expenses include charges accrued in the hospital like nursing services, meals, lab tests and X-rays, and rehab. If you need a short-term stay at a skilled nursing facility following a surgery or medical event, Medicare Part A covers that as well. Seniors are eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A if they are age 65 or older and worked (or their spouse worked) and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years.

Medicare Part B

Medicare Part B covers medically necessary services and preventative services, and is available to Americans 65 and older. Though most seniors don’t have to pay a premium for Part A, Part B is a different story. The monthly premium for Medicare Part B is deducted from your Social Security check. If you don’t receive Social Security, you’ll receive a bill in the mail for your premium.5 Below are some of the things covered by Medicare Part B.

Preventative services Medically necessary services
Vaccinations and screenings Durable medical equipment (DME)
Annual wellness visits Ambulance transportation
Mammograms Inpatient and outpatient mental health services
Nutrition therapy services Limited outpatient prescription drugs

Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C)

If you’d like to forego Original Medicare (which is Part A and B we touched on above), there is an alternative. Medicare Advantage, sometimes called Medicare Part C, provides you with Part A and Part B benefits, but you purchase the policy through an approved Medicare Advantage provider.

You’ll receive coverage through the Medicare Advantage provider, and Medicare pays a “fixed amount” for your care each month. Seniors must be at least 65 to enroll. Usually, you can only enroll during specific enrollment periods, so make sure you find out when the enrollment period is for your selected provider.

Keep in Mind: If you decide to purchase a Medicare Advantage plan through a private company, you cannot also enroll in a Medigap plan.

Medicare Part D

An easy way to remember what is covered by Medicare Part D is that the “D” stands for “Drugs.” That’s right; Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs. Once you’re eligible for Medicare, you’ll be able to choose a Medicare Part D plan for drug coverage. You can sign up for a plan between April 1 and June 30 to receive coverage beginning July 1.

Did You Know: If you’re about to turn 65, you can enroll on Medicare Part C and D during a seven-month period. It includes the three months before the month you turn 65, during the month you turn 65, and three months after the month you turn 65.6

Medigap

Medigap, or Medicare supplemental insurance, is sold by private companies and helps fill in the gaps where Original Medicare falls short. To qualify, you must have Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B). Keep in mind that in addition to your Part B premium, you’ll also pay a premium for your Medigap policy. Medigap can help pay for copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles.

More Tips From the Pros: Deciding between a Medigap and Medicare Advantage Plan? Our experts have done an in-depth Medigap vs. Medicare Advantage comparison.

Medicaid

Medicaid provides health coverage to low-income individuals in the U.S. You may be dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare if you have a low income and are 65 and older. Medicaid can help seniors with limited resources pay for out-of-pocket expenses and nursing home care. Qualifications and benefits vary by state, so check with your local agency to see if you qualify for coverage.

Long-Term Care Insurance

Sixty-six percent of Americans will require nursing home care toward the end of their life.7 With the annual cost of nursing home care being $93,000-$105,000, long-term care insurance is definitely something to consider if you want to protect your assets.8 It is best to purchase a policy early to get a reasonable rate and avoid being denied.

Policies vary, but long-term care insurance usually covers:

  • Nursing home care
  • Assisted living care
  • Adult day services
  • In-home care
  • Necessary home modifications

Private Health Insurance

If you have health insurance through your employer and retire before the age of 65, you’ll need to find private health insurance until you’re eligible for Medicare. This gives you peace of mind that you won’t be on the hook for thousands of dollars in medical expenses if you have an unforeseen trip to the hospital.

Health Technology to Improve Quality of Life for Seniors

Health Technology to Improve Quality of Life for Seniors

From hearing aids to fitness trackers, there are so many high-tech products on the market to help older adults maintain their quality of life and age in place safely. We’d highly recommend considering the products below as your health needs change over time.

Hearing Aids

Being able to hear the birds chirping and the sound of your granddaughter’s voice is something to be cherished. Hearing clearly allows you to stay safe and maintain relationships that mean the most to you!

Hearing aids have become seamlessly integrated in the last decade with smartphone apps and the ability to video chat with hearing care specialists for personalized adjustments. Whether you’re looking for a great deal on hearing aids or want the top-of-the-line model, there are hearing aids out there to fit your budget and lifestyle.

FYI: On the hunt for a new pair of hearing aids? Head to our list of the top hearing aid providers to find the brand that’s right for you!

Medical Alert Systems

For older adults who live alone, medical alert systems provide peace of mind and security. With a push of a help button worn around the wrist or neck, seniors are connected to a 24/7 trained operator ready to assess the situation and send emergency services if needed. Whether you have a history of falling or just want to know that you’re covered if you need immediate help, a medical alert system can give you the extra protection you need to keep living an independent and active lifestyle.

Quick Tip: We’ve determined the best medical alert systems for seniors to help you choose a system that fits your needs and lifestyle.

Medication Management

Missing a dose of medication or taking the wrong dosage can be detrimental to your health. For seniors who have multiple medications that need to be taken at various times in the day, it can be challenging to keep them all straight. A medication dispenser gives audible reminders when medications need to be taken and dispenses the appropriate dose. No more counting pills or loading plastic pill boxes! There are even smartphone apps like Medisafe that help you manage your medications straight from your phone.

Prescription Discount Cards and Mobile Apps

Speaking of medications, some seniors avoid taking their medications simply due to the high cost. Avoiding taking medicine due to high costs can cause your condition to worsen or be the catalyst of a secondary illness. If your prescription drugs are costing you a pretty penny, view our list of best prescription discount cards to see if you can save money on your medications.

Many prescription discount cards have mobile apps you can use on the go. These apps provide you with trustworthy information on your medications, including side effects, drug interactions, and even alert you when it is time for a refill to ensure that you’re never without your medication.

Fitness Trackers

Staying active as you age can help prevent illness and injury. Keeping your legs moving and arms pumping is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your physical and mental health! Fitness trackers from providers like Fitbit can track your steps, mileage, calories, and even your heart rate. This is a fun way to stay motivated and track your fitness progress. Whether you prefer power walking around the neighborhood, cycling, or swimming, there is a fitness tracker out there that can keep up with you!

More Health-Related Topics

Looking for more in-depth information on the topics covered above? Check out the resources below!

Citations

  1. Census.gov. (2019). By 2030, All Baby Boomers Will Be Age 65 or Older.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Older Adult Oral Health.
  3. Harvard University. (2020). Glaucoma Awareness Essential to Health of Aging Population.
  4. American Academy of Audiology. (2021). Seniors and Hearing Loss.
  5. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2021). Who is eligible for Medicare?
  6. Medicare.gov. (2021). Joining a health or drug plan.
  7. American Council on Aging. (2021). Helping Americans obtain the Medicaid long term care they require.
  8. American Council on Aging. (2020). 2020 Nursing Home Costs by State and Region.
Written By

Morgan Redding

Writer and Editor

Morgan has been writing about the senior living industry for the past five years. In addition to over 400 hours of research on topics like medical alert systems, health insurance, and technology for older adults, she also brings her previous experience working… Learn More About Morgan Redding