Swallowing function in advanced age

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Abstract

Purpose of review

To present current literature regarding swallowing function in advanced age, including healthy ageing, dysphagia and trends in multidisciplinary team service delivery.

Recent findings

Normative studies support swallowing efficiency but greater variability in healthy advanced age, through to 100 years old. Deviations from normative data and symptoms of dysphagia leading to aspiration or nutritional risk, imply swallowing disorder, rather than simply the ageing process. Quantitative and qualitative studies are emerging that promote management of swallow dysfunction for an ageing society, including innovative assessment, home treatment, swallowing exercise and optimized mealtimes.

Summary

Current literature on swallowing function in advanced age provides multidisciplinary perspectives and initiatives, with clear commitment to improving quality of life for older adults. The diversity of the older population and serious consequences of swallowing difficulties calls for routine screening tools for swallowing impairment and malnutrition risk. Representation of ‘oldest old’ in future normative studies is essential to guide swallowing management in adults over 85 years old.

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