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By March 1, 2016March 6th, 2021Longevity

Addition by subtraction is a curious phenomenon. It occurs in politics, for a timely example, when a reduced field of candidates helps voters and media focus more attention on those who remain.

It happens in other professions and walks of life too: in pro sports when a disruptive or underperforming player is traded (.i.e. the Cleveland Browns will likely improve without Johnny Manziel and his troubles); in relationships when an abusive partner is shown the door; in music when a song’s acoustic performance sounds better than an over-produced studio version; and in medicine when a cancerous body part is removed to prevent malignancy.

Alzheimer’s disease presents another, especially dramatic example of addition by subtraction.

And, as the recent Time magazine (2-22-16) article “Alzheimer’s From a New Angle’” explained, “The stakes couldn’t be higher … In the U.S., one-third of Americans over 85 are already affected by Alzheimer’s. Globally nearly 50 million people are living with dementia.” The article noted how caring for these individuals falls to families and aging-services providers and how “The cost of that care is sky-rocketing.”

Beyond the profound individual good that will come from finding a treatment, prevention or cure for this horrific disease, there are cascading economic and social benefits as well.

Plus #1: The U.S. economy will benefit by subtracting the enormous financial burden, including the unsustainable impact on Medicare.

Plus #2: Family members will benefit by subtracting the physical and emotional stress, and economic hardships related to caregiving. (Employers will benefit, too, by reducing employee absences.)

Plus #3: The financial stability and lifestyles of families will improve by subtracting the expense of long-term care, which could cost $5,000 to $10,000 per month in a memory care facility. (As an aside, progressive aging-services providers will benefit by initiating scenario planning to survive this inevitable financial hit.)

Plus #4: Healthier longevity will result by subtracting this counter-intuitive, highest ranked fear of growing old.


Considering the multiplicity of immediate and long-term benefits, hopefully one or more of the remaining presidential candidates will realize that adding Alzheimer’s research to their platform would be a win-win strategy.


  • Gary says:

    Old age is “a crap shoot.” What a great analogy!

  • Tracy Huddleson says:

    What absolutely disheartening statistics. Those Alzheimers advances can’t get here too soon!

  • Lucy Fisher says:

    Haven’t heard any candidate speak to this issue. Guess they haven’t heard of the plusses.

  • Great points. Thanks Stuart!

  • Cheri Shaw says:

    Great piece, Stuart. From my perspective, I would like to see funding increased for neurodegenerative disorders across the board. ALS, Parkinson’s, Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia, FTD, Huntington’s disease, and so many others have a substantial impact and often at a younger age than Alzheimer’s. Fortunately, research in one area often benefits the others. Thanks for writing about this.

    • You’re absolutely right. Alzheimer’s represents all the diseases whose cure will benefit individuals as well as produce major social and economic advantages.

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