What Is an Age-Friendly Health System?


Learning Objectives: At the end of this activity, you will be able to:
  • Identify the four essential elements that comprise the “4Ms” framework of an Age-Friendly Health System.
  • Explain the 4Ms framework of an Age-Friendly Health System to a colleague, older adult, or caregiver.

Description: The number of older adults, individuals age 65 and older, in the United States is growing rapidly. And as we age, care often becomes more complex. Health systems frequently are not prepared for this complexity, and older adults suffer a disproportionate amount of harm while in the care of the health system.

To address these challenges, in 2017, The John A. Hartford Foundation and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), in partnership with the American Hospital Association and the Catholic Health Association of the United States, set a bold vision to build a social movement so that all care with older adults is age-friendly care, which:

  • Follows an essential set of evidence-based practice
  • Causes no harm
  • Aligns with “What Matters” to the older adult and their family caregivers

Becoming an Age-Friendly Health System entails reliably providing a set of evidence-based, geriatric best practice interventions across four core elements, known as the “4Ms,” to all older adults in your system. Those 4Ms are What Matters, Medication, Mentation, and Mobility. When these essential elements of high-quality care for older adults are implemented together, it represents a broad shift by health systems to focus on the needs of older adults.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Where do aspects of the 4Ms exist reliably where you work? How can those practices be augmented or spread?
  2. Which aspects of the 4Ms are not as present as they should be where you work? How might they be improved?
  3. What are some ways in which can you initiate the conversation to assess, document, and act on “What Matters” to older adults in your setting?
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