Bob Chaudhuri, MD
Resident in Psychiatry,
Department of Psychiatry,
University of Toronto.
In 1990, three million members of the US population were 85 years of age or older. By the year 2050, it is expected that the numbers of these very elderly people will reach 20 million. However, the percentage of older people in the US is less than that in most European nations. If one considers developing nations, 250 million Chinese will be over the age of 60 by the year 2020, and the number of people in developing nations over the age of 60 will be greater than that number in all the countries in Europe. Importantly, the number of people over the age of 80 continues to grow in proportion to the nation's population.1 Given these demographic numbers,2 the sequella of aging is relevant to psychiatry in general and geriatric psychiatry specifically. There is no specific Canadian data on this subpopulation.
Dementia is primarily a disease of later life, affecting approximately 5% of people over the age of 65, and in some populations studied, almost 50% of those over the age of 85. The essential features of dementia include the development of multiple cognitive deficits including, memory impairment, disturbance in executive functioning, and at least one of aphasia, apraxia or agnosia.