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Swallowing function in advanced age

Jardine, Mariea; Miles, Annaa; Allen, Jacqui E.b,c

Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head and Neck Surgery: December 2018 - Volume 26 - Issue 6 - p 367–374
doi: 10.1097/MOO.0000000000000485

Purpose of review To present current literature regarding swallowing function in advanced age, including healthy ageing, dysphagia and trends in multidisciplinary team service delivery.

Recent findings Normative studies support swallowing efficiency but greater variability in healthy advanced age, through to 100 years old. Deviations from normative data and symptoms of dysphagia leading to aspiration or nutritional risk, imply swallowing disorder, rather than simply the ageing process. Quantitative and qualitative studies are emerging that promote management of swallow dysfunction for an ageing society, including innovative assessment, home treatment, swallowing exercise and optimized mealtimes.

Summary Current literature on swallowing function in advanced age provides multidisciplinary perspectives and initiatives, with clear commitment to improving quality of life for older adults. The diversity of the older population and serious consequences of swallowing difficulties calls for routine screening tools for swallowing impairment and malnutrition risk. Representation of ‘oldest old’ in future normative studies is essential to guide swallowing management in adults over 85 years old.

aSpeech Science, School of Psychology, The University of Auckland

bWaitemata District Health Board

cDepartment of Surgery, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Correspondence to Marie Jardine, Speech Science, School of Psychology, Tamaki Campus, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand. Tel: +64 9 923 8177; e-mail:

Copyright © 2018 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.