Dementia care to become big business

Global aging patterns showing dramatic increases in mortality rates set the stage for the Agequake trend.

In the US, for example, about 13 percent of the population was 65 years or older in 2009 (most recent number available); by 2030, about 20 percent of Americans will be over 65. As the aging population grows, so will the number of people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. More than 5 million Americans are currently diagnosed with dementia, and that number is estimated to go up to 6.7 million, a 30 percent increase, by 2025.

In the US, the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) was signed into law in 2011, embracing the lofty, if unlikely, goal of preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. The initial $100 million allocated to this mammoth undertaking can be described as modest, and the pace since then as glacial. 

But states and cities and even towns have been revving up to investigate — and in a few cases, institute — infrastructures that support the aging and the aging-with-dementia. Over the coming decade, you will be hearing a lot about age-friendly and dementia-friendly cities.

An age-friendly city recognizes that older people need supportive living environments to compensate for the physical and social changes associated with ageing and puts policies in place to help provide them. This isn’t a simple matter of altruism: keeping 20 percent of the population, with a relatively high degree of disposable income, active in the community will provide significant revenues.

Similarly, a dementia-friendly city focuses on supporting people with mild to moderate cognitive impairment — in the early stages of dementia — who may be able to stay integrated in the community for a while, as consumers and contributors. Nations and localities are deep into the development of such programs, each responsive to the culture and customs of their locale, and we are tracking them.

Be aware, as this trend evolves, of ripoffs, scams and hollow promises. Anticipate mind-saving prescription drugs promoted by big pharma and of magic potions pushed by natural healing gurus. More insidious are the corrupt caregivers that will see opportunities to rob the aging of their savings at their most vulnerable time.

 

Read more of this issue of Trends Monthly online.

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