By 2030 more people in the United States will be older than age sixty-five than younger than age five. Our health care system is unprepared for the complexity of caring for a heterogenous population of older adults—a problem that has been magnified by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Here, as part of the National Academy of Medicine’s Vital Directions for Health and Health Care: Priorities for 2021 initiative, we identify six vital directions to improve the care and quality of life for all older Americans. The next administration must create an adequately prepared workforce; strengthen the role of public health; remediate disparities and inequities; develop, evaluate, and implement new approaches to care delivery; allocate resources to achieve patient-centered care and outcomes, including palliative and end-of-life care; and redesign the structure and financing of long-term services and supports. If these priorities are addressed proactively, an infrastructure can be created that promotes better health and equitable, goal-directed care that recognizes the preferences and needs of older adults.
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