28 Million Baby Boomers Will Develop Alzheimer's by 2050

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As the baby boomers get older, the rates of Alzheimer's disease among the people of this generation will climb considerably, according to a new study.

Between now and 2050, more than 28 million baby boomers in the United States will develop Alzheimer's disease, the study found. About 10 million of them will be living with Alzheimer's disease in 2040, which is double the total number of U.S. adults living with Alzheimer's right now.

What's more, the percentage of baby boomers with Alzheimer's will increase, rising from 1.2 percent in 2020 to 50.1 percent in 2050, when all of surviving baby boomers will be at least 85 years old, according to the study that was presented today (July 20) at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington, D.C. (The risk of Alzheimer's disease increases with age, to nearly 50 percent among those older than 85, according to the Alzheimer's Association.)

"As baby boomers get older, the number of people developing the disease will rise to levels far beyond anything we've ever seen before," Maria Carrillo, chief science officer at the Alzheimer's Association, who was not involved in the study, said in a statement.

"Research into treatments and potential cures is critical," to reducing the burden of the disease, the researchers said. A treatment that delays the onset of Alzheimer's by just five years could reduce the number of people expected to have Alzheimer's disease in 2050 from 13.5 million to 7.8 million, according to the Alzheimer's Association. [8 Tips for Healthy Aging]

The report also found that the cost of Medicare for baby boomers with Alzheimer's could increase from $11.86 billion in 2020, which is 2.1 percent of total Medicare spending, to $328 billion in 2040, or 24 percent of Medicare spending.

"If we’re going to change the current trajectory of the disease, we need consistent and meaningful investments in research," Carrillo said.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Lewin Group, a health care policy research consulting firm.

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Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.