By Anthony Romeo
The population of older Americans is increasing. The population of Americans who are 65 years and older was 41.4 million in 2011, which was an increase of 6.3 million, or 18%, since 2000. Life expectancy is even longer in many European countries, as well as in Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The physician workforce in the United States reflects the growing impact of an aging population, with 25% of practicing physicians being 65 years of age or older — a number that is also steadily growing.
With advancing age, people experience a decline in physical capacity. For a while, the decline may be offset by steady cognitive abilities combined with experience and maturity. But eventually, mental abilities also decline. Unfortunately, there is no clear indication of the reduction in cognitive abilities, and the pace and extent of the reduction widely varies.
The Federal Government Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects individuals 40 years of age and older from employment discrimination based solely on age. To arbitrarily select a certain age as the point when physicians are no longer allowed to practice medicine is clearly age discrimination.