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The Takeaway: Wealth Gap Between Young and Old Grows; Exploring The Diabetes/Dementia Link

Generational Wealth Disparity Grows: The wealth gap between young and old is wider than ever before, according


to the U.S. Census Bureau, with the typical net worth of households headed by someone 65+ at 47 times that of households headed by those under 35. While it obviously makes sense that older adults have accumulated more assets and savings than their younger counterparts-after all, they've had more time to do so-the size of this wealth disparity has increased drastically: Today's gap between the finances of young and old is double what it was in 2005, and nearly five times greater than it was 25 years ago. If the rapidly expanding gap could be explained by rapid wealth accumulation among older individuals, that would be one thing. But the bulk of the disparity stems from decreased economic opportunity and increased (student loan) debt for young adults, who have been scarred by the economic downturn and housing bust just as they entered adulthood.

The median net worth of households headed by someone 65 or older was $170,494. That is 42% more than in 1984, when the Census Bureau first began measuring wealth broken down by age. The median net worth for the younger-age households was $3,662, down by 68% from a quarter-century ago, according to the analysis by the Pew Research Center.

The census data shows that the percentage of households headed by a person 65+ that have a net worth of zero has remained largely unchanged, at 8 percent, since 1984. Households worth at least $250,000, however, rose from 8 percent in 1984 to 20 percent now; wealth inequality of this sort was seen across age groups.

Diabetes = Dementia? Two of America's biggest health concerns in modern times are type 2 diabetes and dementia, as both diseases have come to afflict a growing number of adults. Now scientists are increasingly exploring  the ways in which the two diseases may be linked:

Many researchers now believe that proper control of blood sugar could pay dividends in the future by reducing the number of people stricken by Alzheimer's disease, other forms of dementia and even the normal cognitive decline that comes with age. The concept that brain diseases share little in common with diseases arising elsewhere in the body is rapidly crumbling, says Debra Cherry, executive vice president of the Alzheimer's Assn. California Southland.

A large Japanese study recently found that people with diabetes were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. But even impaired glucose tolerance that doesn't approach the severity of diabetes increases the risk of developing dementia by 35 percent. The good news is that treating diabetes or the risk factors associated with it (hypertension, high cholesterol) could help prevent many cases of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Monday Quick Hits: 

  • We all know that obesity has been steadily rising in this country-but average fitness level may have actually increased since the 1970s. "So we're more active, but fatter," Alex Hutchinson writes, "a pretty good indicator that diet, rather than exercise," is driving the rising obesity rate.
Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Burton
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