Course: Health Issues for Aging Populations

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Course Description

Introduces the study of aging, its implications for individuals, families, and society, and the background for health policy related to older persons. Presents an overview on aging from different perspectives: demography, biology, epidemiology of diseases, physical and mental disorders, functional capacity and disability, health services, federal and state health policies, social aspects of aging, and ethical issues in the care of older individuals.

Course Objectives

To introduce students to a range of health issues that older persons, their health providers, and society face in the next decade. These include the demographics and biology of aging, an understanding of the basic health and mental health issues, and policy decisions that state and federal government will need to solve related to these issues.

Course Requirements

Paper and Presentation

Students must write a 10- to 12-page paper on one health issue for older individuals addressed in the class. In addition, the student must give a 10-15 minute presentation to the class based on this material. The focus of the presentation should be a policy issue related to the paper's subject matter. All class members are expected to participate in discussion of the topics and to turn in one question relevant to the topic of the student presenter at the conclusion of the talk.

Examples of policy questions:

  • Is it possible to compress illness into the last months (days) of life, thereby reducing disease burden and futile end of life care for older persons? If it is possible, what can government do to promote such compression?
  • Currently, over 50% of the costs of institutional long-term care for older persons are paid for with public funds from Medicaid. What are the options being discussed for public and/or private funding? What would you recommend?
  • The informal support system of a frail older individual is critical to the type and amount of formal health services that the individual will need to stay in the community. What is an equitable way to encourage use of the informal system? What types of services should informal caregivers provide and what should be left to the formal health care system

Final Exam

Short answer written exam covering material from lectures and readings.


  • Presentation 30%
  • Paper 35%
  • Class participation 20%
  • Final exam 15%