Alzheimer’s and the Aging Population
For much of mankind's history we have worked tirelessly to conquer disease, to push back aging, and to live as long as possible. From the leeches of the middle ages to the insulin and beta-blockers of today, we have always focused on curing mankind of all our ails. As a result, today the average individual lives a much longer, healthier, life than their predecessors. However, even with the great strides that have occurred in medicine, certain diseases continue to elude treatment and are more prevalent now than ever before. Such is the case with Alzheimer’s.
Since 1990, the total number of individuals with Alzheimer’s has increased by over 13%. Today, over 55 million people globally are living with Alzheimer’s. This number is expected to increase to 152 million by 2050. The increased prevalence of Alzheimer’s is believed to be correlated with our longer life expectancy. We’re living over 20 years longer than our predecessors in the 1920’s and nearly 10 years longer than those of the 1970’s, who lived an average of 55 and 70 years, respectively, to our current average of 78.
Not only are people living longer, but the increasing global population has meant that more people are living longer. As the percentage of individuals over 65 continues to increase, we can expect an influx of older individuals experiencing age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
This poses several challenges for our healthcare systems and society. One of the biggest challenges facing our healthcare system is the strain on resources. The demand for hospitals, caregivers, and long-term care facilities is expected to increase, leading to long wait times for care and difficulty finding qualified caregivers. This is already evident today as fewer than 1% of US caregivers are certified in geriatric care, even though 16.8% of the US population falls into this demographic.
For those who can secure a spot in a long-term care facility, they may find themselves faced with a new challenge: money. Long-term care facilities are expensive. Current estimates indicate that >50% of US households don’t have enough saved to cover their retirement expenses. As a result, the cost for care is often accrued by family or the taxpayer.
The Alzheimer's Association estimates that the direct and indirect costs of Alzheimer's disease for 2022 were $321 billion. This includes the costs of medical care, long-term care, and lost productivity. By 2050, the number of Americans aged 65 and older is projected to reach 80 million. If the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease remains the same, this would mean that the economic burden of Alzheimer's disease could reach $1.5 trillion per year by 2050.
The first step for any of us, no matter our age or disease status, is to secure our financial futures. Ensuring you are on track to comfortably retire and build a strong financial future for yourself can be daunting. LadderUp offers a number of webinars to get started, and you can receive a free financial check-up and recommendations through the Illinois Treasurer (linked here). While it’s best to start saving for your future as young as possible, the second-best time to start is today.
The inexorable rise in Alzheimer's cases alongside our increasing life expectancy underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive approach to address the challenges posed by an aging population. As we strive to extend our lifespans, we must also confront the complex and growing demands of caregivers, healthcare resources, and financial planning for the future. The impact of Alzheimer's extends far beyond the individual diagnosed; it affects us all as both taxpayers and members of a compassionate society. Let's begin by securing our financial futures and advocating for a healthcare system better equipped to support the elderly. Together, we can work towards a more inclusive and sustainable future that meets the evolving needs of our aging population.