Nearly 50% of American women will be older than 45 years by the year 2015. Because the life expectancy of women is anticipated to extend to an average age of 81 years by 2050, the aging woman will become the predominant patient seeking health care. These statistics reveal the importance for health care providers to become familiar with the health care needs of this segment of the population. Over their life span, women are more likely to experience disease and disability and subsequently require intervention and treatment. This review is an evaluation of the older woman in the primary care setting. In the first section, which is an overall assessment of the older woman, we introduce common geriatric syndromes that should be recognized by health care professionals. We include an approach to the older woman and specific clinical tools that may be useful for comprehensive evaluation in the outpatient setting. In the second section, we discuss sex-specific illnesses as they relate to the older woman. In the third section, we provide insights on end-of-life issues, cultural competence, and socioeconomic concerns. In the last section, we summarize the key components in the evaluation and management of the older woman. The goal of this article is to provide the health care provider with a clear understanding of factors that must be considered to provide optimal care to these patients.
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