Alzheimer’s, Baby Boomers and Ralph’s Python Theory

python

Until recently Ralph has always been a man passionate about theories. He would grab an idea, explore it to death and then eagerly explain it to everyone he knew.

He stopped believing some (socialism) and lost interest in others (glucosamine), but there were plenty (what it means to be “cool”) he never stopped expounding.

The Python Theory was among the theories he told me back when we first met in our twenties and never tired of explaining for decades.

According to the Python Theory, the Baby Boomer generation is so large that its influence moves society the way a swallowed egg moves through the body of the python. I assumed he picked up the term from something he read, but when I went online, the only reference I found was a 2008 article in the N.Y. Times stating a very different Python Theory of Inflation.

Of course, Ralph is a Baby Boomer—as am I. Whether or not Ralph came up with this baby boomer Python Theory metaphor on his own, in his version, he always considered himself (and by extension me) a cutting edge Baby Boomer/python egg.  A trendsetter for other baby boomers. And it’s true—in his music, in his politics, in his lifestyle choices and life occurrences, he has usually been slightly ahead of the curve.

So when he first got the diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment, he laughed with sardonic, ironic pride that once again he was leading the Baby Boomer egg through the Python’s body.

And he was right. According to the recent article “As Baby Boomers Age, Alzheimer’s Rates Will Soar” by Dennis Thompson on the WebMd site,  Ralph is on the cutting edge.

The article is a bit terrifying in terms of both numbers and costs.

For instance

….More than 28 million baby boomers will develop Alzheimer’s disease during the course of their lifetimes, the researchers estimated.

By 2050, all baby boomers will be older than 85 and half of those still alive will suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, said lead author Lisa Alecxih, senior vice president of The Lewin Group and director of the Lewin Center for Aging and Disability Policy.

That’s up from an estimated 1.2 percent prevalence of Alzheimer’s among boomers in 2020, when most boomers will be in their 60s and early 70s….

…In 2020, the projected Medicare costs of caring for baby boomers with Alzheimer’s in the community will be about 2 percent of total Medicare spending, amounting to nearly $12 billion in 2014 dollars, the researchers estimated.

But by 2040, when the baby-boom generation is between 76 and 94 years old, projected Medicare costs increase to more than 24 percent of total Medicare spending, or about $328 billion in 2014 dollars, the new analysis said…

The article goes on to recommend more funding for research and more involvement by Baby Boomers, quoting Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association:

“The folks in this baby-boom generation are really the ones we need to step up to the plate and participate in some of the large Alzheimer’s prevention studies that are happening now,” he said. “Even people who don’t yet have any cognitive [mental] decline can help in this fight, by participating in those prevention studies.”

I think Fargo’s talking about me. I need to be an egg too.

P.S.  While writing the above, I asked Ralph to define his Python Theory. He couldn’t remember it. I jogged his memory. Then he described the visual of the egg and the snake perfectly but said, laughing, that he had no idea why he once thought it was important.

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