Japan aims to cut dementia patients in 70s by 10% over decade

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A 44-year-old man (R) employed by a nursing care home in Natori in Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan, attends to a resident in March 2018, after he was diagnosed with early onset dementia. (Kyodo)
A 44-year-old man (R) employed by a nursing care home in Natori in Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan, attends to a resident in March 2018, after he was diagnosed with early onset dementia. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The government said Thursday it plans to reduce the number of dementia patients in their 70s by 10 percent over the next decade, setting the first such numerical goal to curb growing welfare spending at a time when the Japanese population is rapidly aging.

It presented the draft policy guidelines to a panel of experts on the disease, which involves a decline in cognition including memory loss. The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to approve the guidelines possibly next month.

Under the plan, the government will initially seek to reduce the number of such patients by 6 percent by 2025.

An estimate by the health ministry has predicted some 7 million people will suffer from dementia in 2025 when the country’s baby boomers reach 75 years of age or older.

Setting a numerical target signals a shift in government policy. It had focused on creating a society where people can live comfortably even if they develop dementia, rather than putting priority on delaying the onset of the disease.

To achieve the goal, the government will take measures such as holding exercise lessons at local community centers as it has been found that physical activity and social engagement could help prevent the disease.

The government will also continue to promote research into disease, as current scientific evidence on preventing the disease is widely seen as insufficient.

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