China's advances in public health have resulted in a significant increase in life expectancy, which has gone from under 60 years in the 1950s to 76 in 2012, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). However, this improvement has also resulted in an increasing number of people older than 60 and some of the diseases prevalent at that older age. Among them are different kinds of dementia, notably Alzheimer's disease.

Although Alzheimer's is the most common type, there are also other types of dementia characterized by altered memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to carry out everyday activities. Although they can start before the age of 65, after that age the likelihood of developing one of them roughly doubles every five years, exacting considerable personal, financial and social costs.

The BrightFocus Foundation estimated that there are 44 million people worldwide living with dementia, with numbers expected to reach 66 million by 2030 and 115 million by 2050. According to the medical journal Lancet, China has 9 million Alzheimer's sufferers. Those numbers make Alzheimer's and other kinds of dementia one of the most significant health and economic problems of the 21st century.