Although aging per se affects function throughout the gut, particularly after age 70, the observed changes are relatively modest and often asymptomatic, perhaps because of the vast reserve of neuromuscular functional elements in the gut. The proximal esophagus, anus, and pelvic floor are possible exceptions to this generalization, and the combination of aging and factors such as minor strokes or obstetric damage often results in dysphagia, constipation, or fecal incontinence. Managing elderly patients with functional abdominal pain demands clinical acumen, tact, understanding, and patience. Further studies are required to elucidate the consequences of aging on gastrointestinal sensorimotor function at several levels of the digestive tract. With the expected explosion in the proportion of the population older than age 75, this field should become a high priority for clinical and research efforts. Also required will be a major campaign to educate patients and practitioners and multidisciplinary collaborations among primary care practitioners, gastroenterologists, psychologists, and physiatrists to provide optimal pain management in the elderly.
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