COMMENTARY

Cognitive Health for an Aging Population

Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS

Disclosures

November 16, 2009

In This Article

Scope of the Problem

We are on the brink of a longevity revolution.[2] The leading edge of a new generation of older Americans will arrive in just 2 years, when the first wave of baby boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) reach the age of 65. By the year 2030, 20% of Americans (1 in 5) will be older than 65 years, and there will be more people over the age of 85 than at any other time in history. But the 65-and-older crowd waiting around the corner will not be like their grandparents, or even their parents. These elders will be more educated, less impoverished, and more racially and ethnically diverse than ever before.[2] In spite of these advantages, their quality of life could be significantly impaired by deteriorating cognitive abilities.

With a large percentage of older individuals living with chronic medical illnesses and conditions, prevention and management of physical health concerns will continue to take center stage. The interplay between physical, emotional, and cognitive well-being in the elderly, however, obliges us to place greater emphasis on preserving cognitive function in aging individuals. How to prevent age-associated cognitive decline is the subject of much recent study and debate.

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