Basic Facts

Taking steps to prevent illnesses can help many older adults be more active and independent. However, some older adult face limits.

  • Health risks, such as age and family history for certain diseases, can’t be controlled.
  • Screening tests and preventive measures aren’t useful if an older adult’s health is poor or they have few years left to live.

A person’s healthcare goals and choices need to be taken into account when making decisions about tests, vaccines, and changing lifestyles.       

Screening for Common Diseases and Conditions                     

Below are general recommendations to help prevent illness in older adults. These guidelines can change over time as knowledge about illness increases. Some people may have different needs for screening, depending on their risks and age.

Not every older adult need[ all of these tests. Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine which screening tests are likely help you.

Screening for Cancer

Older adults need screening for several common cancers. Screening can help find the disease early, before any signs or symptoms appear. Treatment at an early stage is more likely to succeed and can prevent a cancer death 

Some harms may come from screening. They include:

  • Complications from the screening test itself.
  • Fear and anxiety from a false positive test.

Another harm comes from finding a cancer that never would have caused symptoms or death. Treating these cancers can harm a person.

People who are likely to have a shorter life expectancy due to other illnesses are less likely to benefit from cancer screening tests. It's important to talk with your healthcare provider about whether screening tests for cancer are more likely to benefit or harm you.

The following recommendations are for people at average risk of disease. People at high risk, or people with a history of abnormal tests, may need screening earlier and more often.


Older adults have a higher risk of many diseases because their immune systems often get weaker with age. Some of these common diseases can be prevented with vaccines.

Most older adults can benefit from the following vaccines. Checking with a healthcare professional can help identify any other needed vaccines and vaccines that can harm a person with a very weak immune system.

Last Updated May 2023

Back To Top