Dementia Rates Are Declining in the United States

According to researchers at the University of Michigan, between 2000 and 2012, the percentage of adults in the United States with dementia (including Alzheimer’s) fell from 11.6% to 8.8%.  In addition, the Framingham study (a long-running research project in one small, largely-white well-off community)  found that dementia rates have fallen by about 20% in every decade between 1977 and 2008.

If you are worried about dementia in yourself or a loved one, dementia rates declining is good news.  However, the decline also has a big impact on public health expenditures overall.

“If the rate of dementia in 2012 had been what it was in 2000, there would be well more than 1 million additional people with dementia,” said John Haaga, director of the National Institute on Aging’s behavioral and social research.

There are currently more than five million people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease in the United States.  This number is projected to double as baby boomers age over the next 20 years.  So, any decrease in the incidence will be helpful.

Caring for people with dementia can be a tremendous emotional and financial burden. The Rand Corporation has estimated that the financial costs of dementia in the United States range from $159 to $215 billion each year.

What a Dementia Rate Decline Could Mean to Your Retirement Healthcare Expenditures

While the national costs of dementia care are huge, these expenditures can also have a hugely significant impact on your own retirement budget.

Healthcare is one of the three biggest expenses almost everyone contends with during retirement.  And, dementia can more than double your retirement medical spending.   According to research from Brown University in 2017, “The total average cost to care for a person with dementia was more than $321,000 over about five years, compared to an average cost of $137,280 to care for the same person without dementia.”

The same research from Brown University found that people with dementia bear a full 70% of the total healthcare cost associated with their mental decline (the remaining balance is typically paid by Medicare and Medicaid).

Dementia care is a significant expense that not all retirees are really prepared for. If you are worried about funding your retirement healthcare, it can be a great idea to use a well-regarded retirement calculator.

The NewRetirement retirement planning calculator has been hailed as the most comprehensive free tools online.  Once you’ve set up an account and entered some initial information, you can add a lot of detail and try endless “what if” scenarios.  On the “Medical” page in “Your Plan,” you can even try out various options for how you might be able to pay for a long-term care event–like dementia–and immediately see how it could impact your finances now and into the future.

What Can You Do to Prevent Dementia?

My grandfather had Alzheimer’s disease. Thirty years after his death, I still often consider whether or not I carry the gene. I think my mother worries about it too. She helped care for him, and I’ve noticed that she eats a lot of blueberries and tries to keep her brain super active.

There are a few things that researchers think can improve your chances of avoiding dementia.  Research by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care found that one-third of cases of dementia worldwide could potentially be prevented through better management of lifestyle factors, such as smoking, hypertension, depression, and hearing loss over the course of a lifetime.

Here are a few things to consider:


The University of Michigan study suggests that education could be a factor.  They found that the group in the 2012 study had, on average, about one extra year of education than the people studied in the 2000 group.

The researchers suggest that more education can create a greater “cognitive reserve.” People with more education have created enough backup synapses and neurons that they actually can afford to lose a few to Alzheimer’s or dementia without the diseases negatively impacting them.

Learn a Language

Maybe you are not ready to go back to school to add more years of education.  However, you could learn a language.  Adding another language may delay Alzheimer’s by more than four years.  Maybe it’s time to retire abroad to help your language acquisition!

Not sure you want to learn how to speak a new language?  Learning anything new and engaging in lifelong learning in a meaningful and measurable way should have the same protective effect.

Go for a Run

Want to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s by 40%?  Go for a run and make sure your distance adds up to at least 15 miles per week.

Don’t like running?  Any regular exercise is going to help.

Avoid Stress

Stress whether from loneliness, depression, financial pressure, hearing loss, or some other cause may contribute to dementia or Alzheimer’s.  One study found that people who already had some minor cognitive impairment and who also had high levels of anxiety were 135% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

Eat Like You Are on a Greek Vacation

Remember the Mediterranean diet that was popular in the 1980s and 1990s?  Eating lots of fruit, vegetables, lean protein (especially fish), whole grains, olive oil, and legumes and avoiding red meats can reduce the risk of dementia.

What About Mom’s Blueberries?

Blueberries are on the list of foods that can improve your cognitive functions and help you avoid dementia.  Other beneficial foods include leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, beans, all berries and cherries too, pumpkin, squash, asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, beats, and fish.


You might not turn nuts if you eat lots of nuts? Yes, its true, almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, and pecans could be protective.

Plan Your Future Finances Now

Want to have the strongest retirement plan possible? It may be a good idea to create a detailed retirement plan and make big financial decisions when you are younger rather than waiting.

Regardless of actual dementia, our financial acuity seems to decline relatively early.

Document your plans and decisions now. It is easy to get started with the NewRetirement retirement planning calculator.

NewRetirement Planner

Do it yourself retirement planning: easy, comprehensive, reliable

NewRetirement Planner

Take financial wellness into your own hands and do it yourself retirement planning: easy, comprehensive, reliable.

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