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An older woman gets an exam via virtual visit.

Why older adults need a Medicare wellness exam

Growing older can feel overwhelming. Our bodies change as we age, but knowing how to care for ourselves isn’t always simple.

That’s where a Medicare Annual Wellness Visit comes in. 

“It’s kind of like an exam for aging,” explains Piedmont internal care physician Mallory Shillinger, D.O. “It gives a depiction of your overall health.”

But Dr. Shillinger says she sees lots of patients in their 60s and 70s who have never heard of the exam. Although it’s not the same as an annual physical, a Medicare Annual Wellness Visit is important for older people looking after their health.

What happens at a Medicare Annual Wellness Visit 

The Medicare Annual Wellness Visit is designed to offer a bird’s-eye view of your health, with a focus on new issues that may come up as you age. At Piedmont, the exams can be performed via virtual visit

Your doctor may review medications you take, discuss your family health history, and check your blood pressure. But much of your visit will be dedicated to lifestyle questions, says Dr. Shillinger, which help paint a picture of overall well-being. 

Questions may include: 

  • How’s your vision/hearing?
  • Do you need help walking?
  • Do you prepare your own meals?
  • Do you need help with bathing? 
  • Are you eating healthy and exercising?
  • Who lives at home with you?
  • Do you need more support?
  • What are your advance directives?

Based on your answers, your doctor can help determine if you need additional help as you age (such as community support, physical or occupational therapy, and other resources). They can also help you identify or prevent new health problems.

Why is preventive care so important?

Preventive care is a key part of your relationship with a family or internal medicine physician. It’s important to keep seeing your doctor as you get older, because aging can bring health challenges you may have never navigated.

The Medicare Annual Wellness Visit offers a valuable way to pinpoint problems and address them before they worsen, Dr. Shillinger says.

“It gets people thinking about things that they haven’t realized,” she explains.

If you need a new primary care physician, she suggests seeking recommendations from friends and other people you trust. Your doctor should be someone who understands your needs and puts you at ease. 

“If you don’t feel comfortable in your first visit, you shouldn’t feel the need to stay with them,” Dr. Shillinger says. “If you don’t connect, it’s not going to benefit you.”  

Once you find a primary doctor who fits and ensure you're eligible for a Wellness Visit, you can book a Medicare exam each year to review your health. 

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