Pneumonia occurs more commonly in older than in younger people, and it also tends to be more serious. In many older people, the infection spreads beyond the lungs.
Older people have weakened defenses against infection. The mechanisms that clear microorganisms from the airways are not as effective in older people as they are in younger people. Weakness may make coughing less vigorous. Aging also weakens the immune system. Older people at greater risk of developing pneumonia include those
Infection with some of the microorganisms that cause pneumonia can be prevented with vaccinations. So doctors recommend that people who are 65 or older receive the pneumococcal vaccine. People younger than 65 who have medical conditions that make them at higher risk of developing pneumonia should also receive the vaccine. Doctors also recommend that older people in particular receive an annual influenza vaccine because the influenza virus can also cause or contribute to pneumonia.
Most older people who get pneumonia are treated in the hospital with intravenous antibiotics. Pneumonia can cause older people to get very sick very quickly, and older people tend to respond less well to oral antibiotics.