Dementia in the News

Latinos are the fastest growing population in the United States, projected to grow by the U.S. Census Bureau to approximately 129 million in 2060.

The older Latino population is expected to triple by 2050, growing from 6 percent of older adults in 2003 to 18 percent within the next four decades. Health experts are projecting that Latinos are disproportionately represented in the older age groups most at risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Louise will never forget the day her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease at Massachusetts General Hospital. Louise knew her mother shouldn't be driving any more, but the older woman had always been a strong, astute businesswoman. "When she was unable to tell time on the clock that is part of the mental status exam, I couldn't believe it was my mother," she says.

On a radiant fall day, more than 100 people filed into a gloomy auditorium in Boston to see a play about an even gloomier subject:  Alzheimer's disease and how the progressive, brain-killing condition shakes up an African American family.

“I forget things,” the father onstage says angrily while he and his loved ones remain in denial about his descent into dementia. “I’m sick of people asking me how I’m doing.”

The play, “Forget Me Not,” is part of a larger, D.C.-based project designed to reach a community at risk and encourage participation in research.

“You just crashed a little bit,” Adam Gazzaley said.

It was true: I’d slammed my rocket-powered surfboard into an icy riverbank. This was at Gazzaley’s San Francisco lab, in a nook cluttered with multicolored skullcaps and wires that hooked up to an E.E.G. machine. The video game I was playing wasn’t the sort typically pitched at kids or even middle-aged, Gen X gamers. Indeed, its intended users include people over 60 — because the game might just help fend off the mental decline that accompanies aging.

For the first time, and to the astonishment of many of their colleagues, researchers created what they call Alzheimer’s in a Dish — a petri dish with human brain cells that develop the telltale structures of Alzheimer’s disease. In doing so, they resolved a longstanding problem of how to study Alzheimer’s and search for drugs to treat it; the best they had until now were mice that developed an imperfect form of the disease.

For consummate physician-researchers, what better way to mark an auspicious anniversary than with a scientific meeting? So it was that some 250 researchers gathered at Massachusetts General Hospital on September 19 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in the first batch of what was to become a nationwide system of federally funded ADRCs. The crowd comprised the instigators of the centers system, former trainees-turned-research-leaders, as well as current faculty, residents, and students from the United States and abroad.

The National Institutes of Health announced today its first wave of investments totaling $46 million in fiscal year 14 funds to support the goals of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. More than 100 investigators in 15 states and several countries will work to develop new tools and technologies to understand neural circuit function and capture a dynamic view of the brain in action.

Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, remains one of the biggest global public health challenges facing our generation. The number of people living with dementia worldwide today is estimated at 44 million, set to almost double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050. The global cost of dementia was estimated in 2010 at US $604 billion, and this is only set to rise.

America’s older population is experiencing unprecedented growth, but the country is not prepared to meet the housing needs of this aging group, concludes a new report released today by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies and the AARP Foundation. According to “Housing America’s Older Adults - Meeting the Needs of an Aging Population,” the number of people in the United States aged 50 and over is expected to grow to 133 million by 2030, an increase of more than 70 percent since 2000 (click to view interactive map).

We're not yet past Labor Day, but it's already time to start thinking about traveling for the year-end holidays. If you've done it before, you can envision the hassle of getting there when it may seem as though half the world is going too, never mind the expense. If you're traveling with someone who suffers from memory loss, there's an even greater price to pay. Can such a trip be undertaken? And if it can, should it?

About 5 million people in the U.S. suffer from Alzheimer's, half a million of them in California, two-thirds of them women, according to the Alzheimer's Assn.

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