As Mexico undergoes a generational shift toward an older population, the country finds itself unprepared to meet the medical demands of its growing number of senior citizens. The Director of the National Institute of Geriatrics (INGER), Luis Miguel Gutiérrez, recently indicated that the country needs 10 times as many geriatricians as it currently has.
Good vaccination campaigns and public health policies have allowed Mexicans to live longer. At the same time, birth rates have greatly decreased. This is driving an epidemiological shift from a young and productive population to an older one, an effect that will only continue growing. Today, citizens over 65 years of age represent 7.2 percent of the population, about 8 million people, according to the Mexican Association of Retirement Fund Administrators. By 2050, this number is expected to balloon to 24.4 million people, representing 16.2 percent.
There is gap in services and physicians able to provide specialized care to this people, which leads to diminished life quality. INGER states that the country has only 550 geriatricians, with 100 more graduating per year. This number is much smaller that the recommended 5,000 according to Gutiérrez. Moreover, the public sector has only 168 clinics and 176 specialized geriatric beds.
Gutiérrez explained that while the current life expectancy of Mexicans is of 76 years, for most individuals the number of healthy life years is only 63. Moreover, those over 65 years of age find their life quality greatly diminished, with 35 percent of seniors presenting at least two chronic diseases such as diabetes, 17 percent depression and 15 percent a form of dementia.
For that reason, Gutiérrez pointed to a greater need of geriatricians in Mexico and a greater inclusion of basic geriatric matters in the study plans of general practitioners. As Mexicans become increasingly older, this problem will become greater.