HEALTHY AGING AND DEMENTIA
There is a growing focus in the varied media sources about the concerns related to the aging population and dementia. These concerns usually are addressing the financial impact society will face in trying to cope with health care costs and other social support services. The two top concerns for the “boomers” in facing the future are either a cancer or a dementia diagnosis.
The following was recently reported in the New England Journal of Medicine (Nov.27, 2013):
Described in the early 1980’s as “The Silent Epidemic,” dementia in the elderly will soon become a clarion call for public health experts worldwide. The epidemic is largely explained by the prevalence of dementia in persons 80 years of age or older. In most countries around the world, especially wealthy ones, this “old old” population will continue to grow, and since it accounts for the largest proportion of dementia cases, the dementia epidemic will grow worldwide. The combined effects of longer lives and the dementia bulge of baby boomers reaching old age will magnify the epidemic in future decades.
Although demographics will drive an increase in the number of dementia cases, recent reports — generally based on population-based community survey data – point to a declining age-specific prevalence or incidence rates among people born later in the first half of the 20th century.
The NEJM article will review a number of findings from research around the world and suggest several ways we can be providing both care for ourselves and others. In one American longitudinal survey of adults 51 years of age or older, researchers discovered that:
In 1993, 12.2% of surveyed adults 70 years of age or older had cognitive impairment, as compared with 8.7% in 2002. Education was protective against cognitive impairment, and the results suggested that “overall, the combined impact of recent trends in medical, lifestyle, demographic, and social factors has been positive for the cognitive health of older Americans”
As I have been visiting and presenting seminars in churches across western Canada related to healthy aging, I have heard from several seeking direction for future ministries with the aging. There is a particular concern for those facing dementia and their families or care partners supporting them. There are concerns about how we can better use our local church volunteers and facilities to partner with other community agencies in responding to this growing challenge and opportunity to serve others.
If you have experience from your own local community or have suggestions on how we can better network and resource one another, then we invite you to use this BLOG to connect and share ideas.
~ Dr. Paul Pearce Co-director of the Centre for Healthy Aging & Transitions