Obstetrician/Gynecologist Care Considerations

Practice Changes in Disease Management With an Aging Patient Population

Greta Raglan; Hal Lawrence 3rd; Jay Schulkin


Women's Health. 2014;10(2):155-160. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Demographic changes across the country are leading to an increased proportion of older Americans. This shift will likely lead to changes in the patient population seen by obstetrician/gynecologists, and practices may need to adapt to the needs of older women. This article looks at mental health, sexual health, bone loss, cardiovascular disease and cancer as areas in which obstetrician/gynecologists may experience changes with the increasing age of patients. While this is by no means a comprehensive list of changing areas of practice, it offers a guide for reflecting on the future of obstetrician/gynecologists training, and the importance of considering the needs of older patients in practice.


As baby boomers approach older age and a growing proportion of the population lives to a greater age than previously seen, the medical implications of an aging population become increasingly important. In 2030, approximately 19% of the US population will be above the age of 65 years, as opposed to 2010 when that proportion was just 13% (Figure 1).[1,2] The field of geriatric gynecology may grow in the face of this change, and other obstetrician/gynecologists (ob/gyns) may also begin to see older patients in their practices. Ob/gyns play an important role in screening for general health complaints, domestic violence, alcohol or drug use and mental health concerns,[3] and recognizing that the unique health and social concerns of older women may become an increasingly necessary practice quality. Given the probabilty of a demographic shift in patients toward older age, it is important that the field of obstetrics and gynecology looks ahead at how best to meet the general health needs of these women.

Figure 1.

US population aged 65 years and older, 1950–2050.
Reproduced with permission from the Population Reference Bureau.[2]

There are other providers who could provide this care. However, given the regularity with which women see their ob/gyns, these physicians often provide the first line of medical care for women.[3] In addition, a desire among women for continuity of care throughout their lifetimes may lead patients to wish to see their ob/gyn provider into older age. It is with this context in mind that we look more closely at the responsibilities of ob/gyns in the face of shifts in patient demographics. In this article, we address several areas of women's health that may require increased attention from ob/gyn practitioners as the population of older women grows. While this list is by no means exhaustive, we discuss key areas of women's health in which ob/gyns might play an important role in recognizing, diagnosing or managing symptoms in older women.