A population-based study of older Americans suggests that nearly one in four has problems with thinking, learning and remembering.
It’s untrue that your mental abilities decline inevitably as you age. Your memory can be as good in your 80s as when you were half that age. Yet decline in physical health sometimes takes its toll on mental performance. And there’s certainly a ‘grey area’ of so-called mild cognitive impairment (MCI) which lies somewhere between normal mental functioning and dementia.
The prevalence of MCI among a population of people aged 65 or over in Indianapolis has been surveyed by researchers at Indiana University. They find one in four experiences some degree of MCI, rising to 38 per cent in the over 85s. But only 25 per cent of this group went on to develop dementia over the next 18 months, and another 25 per cent appeared to revert to normal functioning after this time.
This study forms a basis for understanding the relationship between MCI and dementia. It is also broadly in line with what research from other countries has found. Hopefully these findings may also lead to new ways of helping people improve their mental functioning, whether through drugs or by attending to physical health factors.