Blog Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging

Older American’s Month: The impact of aging on society

By Behnaz Sarrami, MS, PharmD, Medical Science Liaison for Pharmacogenomics at AltheaDx; TL1 Predoctoral Clinical Research Program Alumnus

Behnaz Sarrami, MS
Behnaz Sarrami, MS

As the population of older adults rises, so does the need for a more extensive understanding of the impact aging has on society and healthcare. A better system needs to be in place that caters to the needs of the increasing number of older adults. Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging is leading the way in providing a voice for older adults in addition to connecting seniors and caregivers to the resources they need.

Older adults are choosing to delay retirement and remain in the workplace longer. This can be very beneficial to companies because it allows them to fill positions with people who have expert talent and experience. However, this comes with the need for special accommodations such as wheelchair accessibility, reducing the need for heavy lifting, and a flexible work schedule.

Changes in cognition can come with aging, such as decreased processing speed, which requires organizations to adapt their training to accommodate all types of learners. Continuing to work has shown to be beneficial for older adults as it gives them a sense of worth and value and keeps them physically and mental active. Engagement in meaningful work can also help reduce loneliness and depression, especially in our current climate of necessary restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Often older adults who are not engaged in the community or workforce can experience depression and anxiety, which can become debilitating. Depression and anxiety are not a normal processes of aging. Many who are on medications to treat mental health conditions may still not find adequate relief. When finding out which medication is effective for an individual, there is a typical trial-and-error process to see what works best.

There is a growing concept of personalized medicine where the right medication is chosen based on a patient’s unique genetic makeup, allowing an individual to achieve the therapeutic effect of the medication sooner. Personalized medicine, also known as pharmacogenomics, combines the science of pharmacology and genetics. This is especially important in mental health because it can take about four to six weeks for this group of medications to start working and several months to get the experience the full effects. In addition, older adults are typically on multiple medications and one needs to be mindful of drug-drug interactions, drug-disease interactions, and drug-gene interaction. The goal is to minimize adverse effects, increase adherence rates, and increase the effectiveness of a medication. Pharmacogenomics can be used as a tool that can help guide therapy and decrease healthcare costs.

In May, as we observe of Older Americans Month, we are reminded to celebrate older adults’ strength and resilience as it challenges us to understand how to better support them. How can you support an older adult this month?

For more information on older adult services in St. Louis, please visit