Boomers’ Aging Casts Light on Geriatrics Shortage

Geriatricians, doctors who specialize in caring for the elderly, are in short supply. Combine this with the fact that our baby boomer generation is advancing into an elder status, this type of health care specialty will be even more scarce. Unfortunately, specializing in geriatrics is not very popular among doctors. Though not every senior may need a geriatrician, having such an expert available who specializes in aging related conditions could be vital to the overall care of an aging individual. As geriatric care managers in South Florida, we understand the special needs that seniors require, and assist families every day with the care management and professional advocacy that ensures quality care. Learn more about how we help seniors in the South Florida areas of Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Boyton Beach, Delray Beach, Miami and Fort Lauderdale at

Boomers’ aging casts light on geriatrics shortage

PALATKA, Fla. (AP) — In this sleepy, riverside town in northeast Florida, 86-year-old Betty Wills sees the advertisements of obstetricians and gynecologists on the main road’s billboards and has found specialists ranging from cardiologists to surgeons in the phone book.

But there’s not a single geriatrician — a doctor who specializes in treating the elderly — in all of Putnam County, where a fifth of the county’s 74,000 people are seniors.

“I looked,” Wills said. “I didn’t find one.”

It’s a nationwide shortage and it’s going to get worse as the 70 million members of the baby-boom generation — those now 46 to 65 — reach their senior years over the next few decades.

The American Geriatrics Society says today there’s roughly one geriatrician for every 2,600 people 75 and older. Without a drastic change in the number of doctors choosing the specialty, the ratio is projected to fall to one geriatrician for every 3,800 older Americans by 2030. Compare that to pediatricians: there is about 1 for every 1,300 Americans under 18.

Geriatricians, at their best, are medicine’s unsung heroes. They understand how an older person’s body and mind work differently. They listen more but are paid less than their peers. They have the skills to alleviate their patients’ ailments and living fuller, more satisfied lives.

Though not every senior needs a geriatrician, their training often makes them the best equipped to respond when an older patient has multiple medical problems. Geriatricians have expertise in areas that general internists don’t, including the changes in cognitive ability, mood, gait, balance and continence, as well as the effects of drugs on older individuals.

But with few doctors drawn to the field and some fleeing it, the disparity between the number of geriatricians and the population it serves is destined to grow even starker.

“We’re an endangered species,” said Dr. Rosanne Leipzig, a renowned geriatrician at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.

Geriatricians rank among the lowest-paid medical specialties, with a median salary of $183,523 last year, according to the Medical Group Management Association, which tracks physician pay. That sounds like a lot, but many other specialties pay two or three times more, while the average doctor graduates with $160,000 in student loan debt.

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