Over time, older adults may start to notice a decline in their health. Aside from the obvious visible signs, age-related decline in health may manifest as reduced physical performance, cognitive function, and even mental health. These changes may become more prominent from middle age (50+), and may progressively worsen as you age.
If you’re aged 50 or older, it might be helpful to build a team of trusted healthcare professionals you can call on for regular check-ups and support. Together, they can help you take steps towards healthy ageing and long-term physical, emotional, and cognitive independence. The below list describes the roles of many of the different healthcare professionals involved in aged care.
Primary care providers
Primary care providers are those typically seen as the first point of contact for health concerns or regular check-ups in the community, unrelated to a hospital visit.
- General practitioners (GPs): Specialise in providing primary care for a wide range of conditions. Often involved in coordinating care between other primary care providers, specialists, and allied health professionals.
- Primary care nurses: Play a central role in assessing, planning, and providing care in various healthcare settings.
- Dentists: Provide dental and oral healthcare treatment. Dental health often declines with age; regular check-ups with a dentist can help to reduce the risk of tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss.
Other medical specialists
The term “specialist” refers to any medical doctor who has completed advanced training in a particular field of medicine. In addition to GPs, some other examples of specialists involved in aged care include:
- Geriatricians: Specialise in diagnosing and managing conditions that occur in older people.
- Neurologists: Specialise in diagnosing and managing diseases of the nervous system (e.g., strokes, epilepsy, dementia).
- Psychiatrists: Specialise in the diagnosis and management of mental illness.
- Ophthalmologists: Specialise in all aspects of eye care, including diagnosis, management, and surgery for visual diseases and disorders.
- Endocrinologists: Specialise in the diagnosis and management of endocrine (hormone-related) diseases, such as diabetes, osteoporosis, and thyroid disease.
- Rheumatologists: Specialise in diagnosing and managing autoimmune diseases, arthritis, and other musculoskeletal diseases (conditions affecting the muscles, bones, joints, and connective tissues).
- Pulmonologists: Specialise in the diagnosis and management of conditions affecting the lungs and other organs and tissues that help with breathing.
Note: A primary care provider (such as your GP) will generally need to provide a referral letter before an appointment can be made with a specialist.
Allied health professionals
Allied health professionals provide therapeutic care and support within their chosen field, particularly to people following illness, injury or those with chronic health conditions.
- Physiotherapists: Help develop, maintain and restore mobility, and reduce pain and stiffness, particularly in individuals who have impaired movement (e.g., after a fall, injury, stroke, or due to a chronic health condition).
- Occupational therapists: Help individuals regain independence following illness or injury so that they can return to work or living at home.
- Psychologists: Assess and treat a range of mental, emotional, and behavioural disorders.
- Speech pathologists: Diagnose and manage communication disorders, such as those that can occur after a stroke. Assist individuals with physical problems that affect eating or swallowing.
- Podiatrists: Provide specialised care and treatment for disorders of the foot, ankle, and related structures. Foot care is especially important for older people with existing conditions like diabetes and arthritis.
- Optometrists: Provide specialised care and services related to the eyes and vision. Many people experience a progressive decline in near vision with age; the risk of a range of other eye conditions may also increase.
- Orthoptists: Diagnose and manage eye movement disorders, and help rehabilitate individuals suffering visual difficulties (e.g., after stroke).
- Audiologists: Diagnose and manage disorders related to hearing and balance.
- Dietitians: Develop tailored nutrition plans to help prevent or manage chronic conditions (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, obesity) and address food allergies and intolerances.
The above information is not an exhaustive list and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, nor should it be relied on as health or personal advice. Please speak with your general practitioner regarding any new or existing health conditions.
NP-AU-NA-WCNT-210011 Date of GSK Approval: June 2021
- Hall SK et al. J Gerentol 2017;72(4):572–8.
- Harada CN et al. Clin Geriatr Med 2013;29(4):737–52.
- World Health Organization. Mental health of older adults (2017). Available at
https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-of-older-adults (accessed 3 May 2021).