She gives alarming statistics on women and Alzheimer’s and notes that the majority of caregiving for it, unpaid and much of it unchosen, falls on women. Another sidebar on p 55 by Patti Davis, regarding Ronald Reagan’s family, says “Particularly in a disease like Alzheimer’s, in which parts of a person die off gradually, it’s been my observation that men tend to back away in discomfort. Women, on the other hand, inhabit the experience fully…” That’s partly because, even in a free individualistic culture, men are brought up to see disease in moral terms.
Indeed, many people age into the late 90s or over 100 without much disability; but the demographic prognosis as the baby boomers retire is dire: people will spend many more years of their lives in disability (not just Alzheimer’s) than did previous generations, and there are fewer children to care for them, and institutions will be stretched. True, a lot more can be done in the CCRC area, as there is plenty of real estate market incentive to build more of them (an irony given the mortgage crisis).
Much of the Time issue deals with early testing and future opportunities for prevention. This raises new questions, about insurance or employment discrimination, for example, related to future genetic or neurological tests. It also says that, even given our debt-ridden economy, we can’t back off on research. Alzheimer’s has replaced AIDS (ironically, in the view of someone who survived and buddied the 1980s) as likely our number 1 public health problem.