How old is too old? More pediatricians are seeing adults in their late 20s, 30s

On doctor says his age cutoff used to be 24—but now it's 35

Young patients have traditionally left their pediatricians during their late teens or early 20s, but that appears to be changing, Jane Furse reports for the New York Times' "Well."

Instead, some young adults are staying with their pediatricians into their late 20s or even their 30s.

One reason may be because young adults are less likely to leave behind other traditional aspects of adolescence, Furse writes. She notes that for the first time in more than 100 years, adults ages 18 to 34 are more likely to live with their parents than with a partner or spouse, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

But pediatricians also are becoming more open to keeping young adult patients in order to ensure they receive needed care.

Ramon Murphy, a New York City-based pediatrician, explains that young adults can encounter several challenges making the move from a pediatrician to an internist. For example, many young adults report they can't find an internist who takes insurance from new patients, and those who do take insurance often don't have appointments available for months.

New York City has also seen an increase in private practices focused on adolescent medicine, targeting an older age range that pediatricians—in part because pediatricians may be uncomfortable discussing contraception, says Karen Soren, director of adolescent health care at the NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital.

Redesigning the primary care clinic

Soren says that while adolescent medicine "traditionally" was meant for patients ages 12 to 18, "it became pretty clear kids didn't suddenly change into adults at 18, so a lot of us kept them until 21 and beyond."

David Bell, medical director of the Young Men's Clinic and the Family Planning program at NewYork-Presbyterian, reflects that when he started at the clinic a decade and a half ago, he saw patients up to age 24. Then Bell "pushed it up to 27, then 30, and now 35," he says, adding, "I'm kind of sticking to 35."

For Cynthia Pegler, whose private patients are primarily young women, says her "official rule is it is really time to go when you yourself are ready to have a baby" (Furse, "Well," New York Times, 6/23).

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