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J Am Geriatr Soc. 1990 Nov;38(11):1220-9.

Differences in health status between older and younger homeless adults.

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Division of Family Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles.


The Institute of Medicine has placed a priority on determining the special health-care needs of elderly homeless persons. As part of a community-based study of 521 homeless adults in two beach communities of Los Angeles, we compared the demographic characteristics and health of older (age rangek 50-78, n = 61) and younger (age range, 18-49, n = 460) homeless individuals. Compared with younger adults, older adults were more likely to be white (85% versus 61%), veterans (59% versus 27%), retired (36% versus 3%), and living in a vehicle (21% versus 8%). Older adults were more likely to report having a chronic disease (69% versus 49%), functional disabilities, no informal social contacts during the previous month (49% versus 27%), observed high blood pressure (42% versus 22%), elevated creatinine (11% versus 2%), and elevated cholesterol (57% versus 36%). Older adults were less likely to have a toothache (3% versus 30%), report psychotic symptoms (25% versus 42%), and to be illegal drug users (15% versus 55%). Although they are chronologically younger, the constellation of health and functional problems of older homeless adults resemble those of geriatric persons in the general population. We suggest that geriatricians could play a significant role in training other primary-care providers to evaluate and treat socially isolated older homeless adults in a more comprehensive way than is currently standard in practice (e.g., interdisciplinary team care and emphasis on functional status, rehabilitative medicine, and assessment for sensory impairment).

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