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As more seniors stay in Alaska, experts anticipate higher Alzheimer's disease and dementia numbers

(KTUU)
Published: Jul. 26, 2017 at 6:06 PM AKDT
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The days of snow birds are dwindling, as Alaska's older population is staying here. In Anchorage alone, there are nearly 48,000 seniors over the age of 60.

With a growing elderly community, experts are also expecting Alzheimer's Disease and dementia numbers to increase.

There are currently 6,700 Alaskans who suffer from Alzheimer's or dementia and it's creating a need for facilities specializing in memory care. Baxter Senior Living is trying to fill that need.

By fall of next year, it will have one of the state's largest living facilities in the state with a capacity to house 116 residents and also offer the special care that Alzheimer's and dementia patients need.

JR Wilcox, president of Baxter Senior Living said the unmet demand for memory care can actually be dangerous.

"You have people who are otherwise healthy but you know may behave, problems roaming certainly in Alaska if somebody becomes disoriented wandering around the winter that's a huge problem," Wilcox said.

According to Alaska Pioneer Homes Division Director, Amanda Lofgren, homes caring for those with Alzheimer's or dementia should have environments that are supportive. This includes specifically colored walls so residents remember how to get back to their rooms, and locked or delayed doors.

"Where they are at in their disease progress as well as their memory, they may be needing to get up and go to work that day even though they haven't worked in a long time," Lofgren said. "So having that environment that supports them can help counterbalance some of the challenges and frustrations that they have as an individual."

But its not just Baxter Senior Living that is taking an interest in this market. According to Lofgren, "more and more partners in the community both private sector, churches, are developing an interest and building senior housing or memory care facilities across the state."

And experts say investing in the elderly community is important for more than one reason.

"Our elders are what built our community and provided so much of the foundation for where we are at today. So supporting them and giving back to them is really important. They are also a huge source of economy in our community they are investing in our community, they are building goods and services," Lofgren said.

The growing population of seniors over 65 is expected to continue over the next three decades, according to the state's Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Wilcox thinks it has a lot to do with the beauty of the state.

"It's beautiful, the air's clean, the water's clean, taxes are low, it's a great community and it's wonderful to be able to get out and look at the Chugach Range in the morning especially if you're from here," he said.

And with projects like Baxter Senior Living's new facility in the works, more senior housing is on the horizon.

To learn how to get on the wait list at Baxter Senior Living facility, just