The month of May is Older American’s Month, and as further proclaimed by Governor Ducey, we proudly celebrate our growing older adult population in Arizona. Arizona is home to more than 1.3 million older adults who embody a wide-range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds who contribute in many ways to the economy and quality of life for all Arizonans. In fact, Arizonans aged 65-plus are soon expected to account for about quarter of our entire population, thanks in large part to healthy aging programs and medical advances leading to healthy longevity.

The 2017 Older American’s Month theme is “Age Out Loud.” It is with this theme in mind that we applaud the fact that many folks are remaining in the work force longer, choosing productive lifestyles and committing to “giving back” to their communities. We are also keenly aware that for many folks, living longer can bring challenges such as financial burden and shifts in their healthcare needs.

Chief among the increase in healthcare needs is the dramatic rise in Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias. The only major disease-related cause of death that has not declined in the past 10 years is Alzheimer’s Disease. It has risen to more than 130,000 reported cases among Arizonans aged 65 years and above, and is currently the fourth leading disease-related cause of death (3rd among women) in our state. And while research and advances in detection and treatment are showing some progress, the economic and emotional stress that is being shouldered by over 300,000 caregivers is becoming a major public health problem.

This is where the Arizona Department of Health Services has leaned in. In support of the State Alzheimer’s Plan, ADHS has embarked upon a public-private partnership with the Vitalyst Health Foundation, Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, Maricopa County Department of Public Health, and several public and privates agencies addressing the needs of caregivers, to identify and close the gaps in the kinds of community resources that can serve as a vital link in keeping older Arizonans in their homes and communities for as long as possible. Learn more by visiting the Arizona Healthy Aging Plan website.