As early as 50 years of age, individuals may begin to experience sensory and motor changes related to the swallow as a result of the natural aging process and continue to progress with age (Daggett, et al., 2006). These changes, which will be described in detail throughout this resource, are generally slow and mild; however, they may significantly reduce the efficiency of the swallow (Logemann et al., 2013). According to the 2012-2016 National Outcomes Measurement System (NOMS) report, 89.73 % of the speech-language pathologist’s (SLP) caseload across the acute, inpatient, outpatient, and skilled nursing settings consistent of patients 50 years of age and older and 60% of the SLPs caseload alone were individuals 70 years and older (ASHA, 2019). 59% of clinicians treating adults indicated that swallowing disorders were in the top five most common diagnoses they treat (ASHA, 2021). Given the prevalence of older adults treated by SLPs and the prevalence of swallowing conditions, clinicians should understand how to differentiate abnormal versus typical age-related changes in the swallow to ensure appropriate diagnostic and treatment interventions.

The content of this resource will focus on motor and sensory changes impacting the swallow in the aging population and aid clinicians in determining whether these changes are truly a disorder or instead, presbyphagia.

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