Domingo 28 de Abril de 2002, Ip nº 13

Baby boomer pain is big business
Over the years, Cindy Orlandi has walked her dog, worked out and taken yoga classes to keep in shape.

But in recent years, the 45-year-old's routine has been crimped by foot pain, an irritant that has become so severe that she now gets monthly massages.

"Back in the old days, I'd wear higher heels, but I don't think that's what did it," said the Ann Arbor, Michigan, resident who has also tried cortisone shots to ease her discomfort. "It's just that I'm getting older and now things hurt. I'm not 25 anymore, and there's going to be some natural deterioration of my body."

The demand for pain management solutions, ranging from prescription drugs to massage to surgery, is expected to surge in coming years as the generation that embraced Jane Fonda and going to the gym gets older.

The 76 million baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 are expected to have less tolerance for pain than previous generations, making them willing to try and to spend more on different treatments for their aches and pains.

"Boomers are different from their parents and grandparents. They have much more of an expectation that medicine will be able to fix everything, rather than being stoic about pain," said Dr. B. Eliot Cole, director of continuing education for the American Academy of Pain Management and a boomer himself. "Having coming out of the post-World War II era with so much opportunity offered to them, they expect that this can be fixed, too."

Indeed, an estimated 25 percent of the population will be over age 55 by 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Although no one knows exactly how much it will cost to take care of aging boomers, most agree that the generation's size alone means more money will be spent on health care.

Consequently, even though many boomers have yet to enter their 50s, the business and medical communities are already preparing to provide services they believe this generation wants, including pain management.

The number of doctors treating to pain and sports-related injuries has increased while the variety of treatments has also grown. Orthopedics companies are also looking for new treatments to ease serious knee, hip or other injuries that are common to a generation that has made "working out" a top priority.

Some drug companies are marketing products in ways that appeal to boomers. Johnson & Johnson recently reintroduced its St. Joseph baby aspirin product as "St. Joseph Adult Low Strength Aspirin" in hopes adults would use it to reduce risk of heart attacks.

And boomer sports stars such as skater Dorothy Hamill and decathlon champion Bruce Jenner have appeared in commercials for arthritis medications.

There is also a growing interest in alternative medicine.

"I see many boomers who would rather not take pills for pain," said boomer Dr. Sara Warber, co-director of the University of Michigan Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research Center. "It's not surprising when you think about what went on when boomers were growing up. China was opened up so we learned about acupuncture, the Beatles went to India and we learned about meditation and yoga. There was an open-mindedness to new ideas."

She expects demand will eventually force insurers to cover these types of services and hospitals to include them in their treatment options.

Boomers have also shown a willingness to pay for items that aren't covered by insurance, ranging from pillows to special chairs that claim to alleviate stress on joints.

"It's anything from $20 for tapes and book or handheld massagers. Then you can go up to thousands of dollars for a good office chair or zero-gravity recliners," said Donna Millsap, head of merchandising at Relax the Back, an upscale chain of stores offering ergonomic products. "People are willing to spend because they're in pain."

Insurance usually doesn't cover those products, but the stores still focuses on the medical community as sources for customers: "We now have medical marketing people who go out and market our products to doctors and chiropractors," said Millsap, a boomer.

Ultimately, the desire to control pain has a lot to do with boomers' hopes to stay active as life spans increase and more people live into their 80s and 90s.

"Thirty or 40 years ago, someone my age might have figured they were approaching the end of their lives," said Rebecca Cassel, 54, of East Fairfield, Vermont, who has undergone surgery and tried experimental treatments to alleviate back pain.

"But I feel like I'm launching into one of the most exciting periods of my life. And I want my quality of life to be good, so that I can continue to do all the things I enjoy," she added.


  15/04/2002. CNN.


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