DALLAS – America’s 77 million boomers are in for a rude awakening.

The generation that thought it would stay young forever will begin turning 65 in five years and discovering there aren’t enough physicians trained to take care of the frailties of old age.

“It’s scary – we’re about to have a major medical crisis that will overburden millions of families,” said Dr. Harrison Bloom, a senior associate at the International Longevity Center in New York.

The number of people 65 and older will double during the next quarter-century. Those 71 million seniors will account for one in every five Americans, and many will have several chronic health conditions.

“It’ll be chaotic, and the quality of care will suffer,” predicted Dr. Meghan Gerety, a professor of medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and chair of the American Geriatrics Society.

Health care professionals advise boomers to brace themselves: Symptoms may be misunderstood or dismissed. Diagnoses may be late. And the wrong drugs may be prescribed.

Gerety blames the problem on a shortage of geriatricians, doctors formally trained in the ailments of old age.

The nation already has fewer than half of the geriatricians it needs, according to the Alliance for Aging Research in Washington. By 2030, when the youngest boomer reaches 65, it may have less than a third of the necessary number.

But experts aren’t optimistic that lawmakers will reform Medicare until there’s a public outcry.

And boomers may also be their own worst enemies, since they’re not inclined to admit they’re getting older.

“Time is running out,” Reuben said. “If we wait until the boomers acknowledge they aren’t young anymore, it’ll be too late to solve the problem.”

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