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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced that his administration will devise a “national strategy” to deal with dementia — a problem that is affecting a growing portion of the population as it rapidly ages. While Abe looks to include funding for some of the new measures in the fiscal 2015 budget, the administration needs to listen to dementia patients and their families so that the strategy can succeed in helping the former to realize their wish to “live with dignity and hope.”

The number of people aged 65 and older who suffer from dementia hit an estimated 4.62 million in 2012. The figure rises to 8.62 million — or one in every four persons age 65 or older — if it includes people with light cognitive disorders who are seen as having the risk of developing dementia symptoms. The health ministry warns that people with medium-to-severe dementia will increase as the aging of the population accelerates in coming years, with the youngest members of the postwar baby boomer generation turning 75 by 2025. In an alarming sign of the gravity of the problem, roughly 10,000 people with dementia are reported missing after wandering away from home each year, although most are later found.

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