A study released in late November in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal reported that dementia rates for individuals over the age of 65 years old is down almost 24% from rates found in 2000. There are a variety of reasons why this decline may have happened, including elders with higher education levels than those before them, as well as better heart and brain monitoring, and more awareness as to social and behavioral changes that elders have as a way to combat Alzheimer’s Disease.
This news comes as a welcome surprise, as in 2016, 5.4 million Americans lives with Alzheimer’s Disease, roughly translating to one in nine people over the age of 65 years old. By 2050, the elder population will have tripled in size, amounting to a staggering 84 million people over the age of 65 years old. With the aging population growing at such a rapid pace, medical, legal and social professionals are working to determine how to cope with such a large amount of the population potentially living with this disease.
These recent findings shed some light on how the disease, which generally exhibits symptoms of memory loss, confusion, limited social skills, mood changes and disorders as the result of irritability and anxiety, as well as confused speech and muscular movement.
While some of the reasoning for the decrease may be confusing to some, researchers found that those elder individuals who were better educated had higher paying jobs and in return, better access to health care, were less likely to be overweight and lead an unhealthy lifestyle, were less likely to smoke, lived in better areas and were less stressed as a result.
The more mentally stimulating a person’s work tasks, the more they are actively calling on different regions of their cognitive development and the more engaged they remain. With access to healthcare being such a widely controversial topic as we prepare for a new president to take office, the decreasing dependence of elders on the healthcare system as well as their family takes pressure off of those parties involved. Many health experts recommend that elders stay engaged by continuing learning, whether by taking a new class or picking up a new hobby as a way to continue challenging their mental capacity and keeping them engaged. While more research is needed, this study closely aligns with other studies released in Europe regarding similar investigations.