Dementia Less Prevalent Among the More Highly Educated, Says Report Produced With Help From AIR Experts

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For Americans age 65 and over, the prevalence of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, decreases with educational attainment, according to a new report produced with key assistance from experts at the American Institutes for Research (AIR).

For Americans age 65 and over, the prevalence of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, decreases with educational attainment, according to a new report produced with key assistance from experts at the American Institutes for Research (AIR).

In 2011, 21 percent of those age 65 and over with less than a high school education had dementia, compared with 5 percent of those age 65 and over who had a bachelor’s degree or more. That finding is one of several in Older Americans 2016: Key Indicators of Well-Being, a report focusing on people age 65 and over released by the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics.

In 2014, heart disease and cancer were the top two leading causes of death among all people age 65 and over. Between 1999 and 2014, death rates declined for heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia. However, death rates for Alzheimer’s disease and unintentional injuries increased over the same period.

The report found that life expectancy varies by race, but differences decrease with age. In 2014, life expectancy at birth was 3.4 years higher for white people than for black people. At age 65, white people can expect to live an average of 1.1 years longer than black people. However, among those who survive to age 85, life expectancy among black people is slightly higher (6.9 years) than white people (6.5 years).

The report groups the most current federal statistics on the aging population into six areas: population, economics, health status, health risks and behaviors, health care and environment. Since the report’s last publication in 2012, the Forum has incorporated federal statistics on issues of growing relevance to this population, including data on Social Security beneficiaries, dementia, long-term care providers, transportation and informal caregiving.

Other key findings include the following:

  • In 2014, 46 million people age 65 and over lived in the United States, accounting for 15 percent of the total population. In 2030, the older population is projected to be more than twice as large as in 2000, growing to 74 million and representing 21 percent of the total U.S. population.
  • From 1966 to 2014, the proportion of the older population living below the official poverty threshold decreased dramatically, from 29 percent to 10 percent. In 2014, the poverty rate for those age 65 and over was higher under the supplemental poverty measure (which incorporates additional items such as tax payments, work expenses and out-of-pocket medical expenditures) than the official measure (14 percent versus 10 percent, respectively).
  • The type of Social Security benefits received by women age 62 and over changed dramatically between 1960 and 2014. The percentage who received spouse-only benefits decreased from 33 percent to 9 percent, and the percentage who received widow-only benefits decreased from 23 percent to 14 percent. In contrast, the percentage who received earned worker benefits increased from 43 percent to 77 percent.
  • In 2014, about 1.2 million people age 65 and over were residents of nursing homes. Most nursing home residents needed help with daily living activities. Nearly all residents (96 percent) required assistance bathing, and most residents needed help with dressing (92 percent), toileting (88 percent) and walking (91 percent).
  • “Informal caregivers” are unpaid family members or friends who assist older adults who have functional limitations with everyday tasks such as bathing, dressing, preparing a meal or managing money. In 2011, an estimated 18 million informal caregivers provided 1.3 billion hours of care on a monthly basis.

AIR staff worked on quality control reviews, data management, data checks and other dimensions of the report. Experts included Susan Armstrong, Melissa Diliberti, Kathryn Low, Katie Mallory and Ashley Roberts.

To see the full report, visit agingstats.gov.

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit http://www.air.org

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Andrew Brownstein
@Health_AIR
since: 06/2009
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