As our population ages, New Milford Hospital and its associated physicians are striving to provide the care needed by more and more seniors.

The hospital's Center for Orthopedics and Joint Replacement opened in May 2010.

The center is designed to offer a comforting environment with private rooms, equipped with day beds and other amenities to promote rest and recovery following surgery.

"A lot of older patients today do very well even with major surgeries," said Dr. John Mullen, an orthopedic surgeon with New Milford Orthopedic Associates.

"It's not as much a person's birth date as their physiological condition that comes into play," Dr. Mullen said. "We're doing more surgeries on patients in their 70s and 80s now than 20 years ago."

"Some of it is due to the population aging so there is a higher incident of hip fractures," he noted. "Some of it is due to the fact that people are living more active lifestyles in older age."

Surgeons in New Milford specialize in joint replacement of the hip and knee, shoulder resurfacing and other shoulder surgery, as well as back and neck surgery. They are using advanced techniques to minimize pain, scarring and recovery time.

From keeping aging residents healthy through programs in conjunction with the New Milford Senior Center, to providing in-patient treatment in a positive "patient-friendly" environment, Dr. Henry Allen said the hospital has senior care on target.

"The human body has an amazing ability to age gracefully with aging parts," said Dr. Allen, a geriantologist with Associated Family Physicians.

"In addition to doing replacements, we're learning what's best for maintaining health and cognition," Dr. Allen explained. "Our whole focus is on treating multiple issues that arise while doing no harm."

Hospitalists at New Milford Hospital, as all doctors today, are practitioners of geriatric medicine and aware an aging person's ability to "tolerate insults to the system" is reduced, he said.

They know a person's ability to respond to treatment narrows with age and an older person might not present the same symptoms of a disease or condition as a young person would, Dr. Allen noted.

New Milford Hospital's hallways are now more brightly lit with larger markings for navigating one's way to departments through its corridors.

Ramps and wheelchairs are available because "we know an older person is compromised in terms of hearing, seeing and mobility," Dr. Allen said.

An aging population often comes with advanced pulmonary conditions and the hospital staff is also ready to meet that need.

Pulmonary specialist from Danbury Hospital started providing acute care, in-patient, and out-patient care at New Milford in October, 2010.

Led by Dr. Abhijith Hegde, the group's seven doctors are on weekly rotation, spending half the day on site. They are then are on call by phone, thus providing 24/7 coverage.

"We're there for all adult populations," Dr. Hegde said. "Dr. Thomas Botta is in every Wednesday to see patients referred by community doctors in New Milford."

New Milford has a pulmonary functions testing lab, a bronchoscopy suite, and a sleep center. For advanced testing, patients are sent to Danbury.

"Certainly cardiovascular disease becomes more prevalent in an older population also," said Dr. Michael Levine, a cardiologist on the hospital staff.

"More people will have it as the population ages and there is a lot we can do for it in New Milford -- inserting pacemakers and handling arrhythmias," he said. "We know our limitations as well and transferring someone to Danbury Hospital is very easy to do" (see cardiology story).