Care of the Older Adult

This position statement was archived on 11/7/2012, because it is now a standard of practice.


  • The medical-surgical nurse promotes evidence-based practice for the care of the older adult.
  • The medical-surgical nurse advocates for maintaining the dignity and rights of the older adult and the incorporation of the older adult's values and belief systems into health maintenance and health care decisions.
  • The medical-surgical nurse should support the older adult and his or her support system in efforts to maintain a healthy and safe lifestyle, live independently, and manage the older adult's health care problems based on the individual's physical, mental and financial limitations.
  • The medical-surgical nurse should be knowledgeable regarding issues affecting the health and well-being of the older adult.
  • The medical-surgical nurse supports health care reform that includes affordable and appropriate health care for the older adult.
  • The medical-surgical nurse pursues continuing education and/or certification in gerontology
  • The medical-surgical nurse can utilize tools available from the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing in providing a safe environment for the hospitalized older adult.


According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging - Related Statistics (2008), 37 million people over age 65 and 5.3 million people over age 85 lived in the United States in 2006. An estimated 21 million people will be over age 85 by 2050. The Forum projects a population of 71.5 million baby boomers in the United States, as well as the following increases in minority groups by 2030: African-Americans 128%, American Indian and Alaskan Native 193%, Asian-Americans 301%, with the largest growth of 322% being seen in Hispanic-Americans.

Common geriatric problems that serve as foci for nursing interventions include end-of-life care, chronic and debilitating pain leading to inactivity and deconditioning, falls, dementia, medication complications, abuse and neglect, and financial difficulties that interfere with health care.


Increased health care costs and rapid changes in the health care system pose major challenges in managing the care of older adults. Health care outcomes in the older population are influenced by co-morbidities, patient belief and value systems, patient preferences, social support, multiple sites and settings of care, and financial and public policy issues.

AMSN supports the Specialty Nursing Association Global Vision Statement on Care of Older Adults.


Older adult is the chronological age of 65 or older

Geriatrics is the specialty of nursing concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease in older people and the problems specific to aging.


Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, (n.d.) Nurses improving care of health system elders. Retrieved August 21, 2009, from

Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, (2009). Specialty Nursing Association Global Vision Statement on Care of Older Adults. Retrieved September 18, 2009, from

The Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, (2008). Number of older adults. In Older Americans in 2008: Key indicators of well-being (sec. Indicator #1). Retrieved September 18, 2009, from