The topic of aging and long-term care is certain to stay on our radar screens as Baby Boomers grow older and the population in general lives longer into its golden years.

With that comes concern about dementia, which increases with age. In the U.S. alone, the cost of dementia is calculated at $157 billion to $215 billion annually—making the disease more costly than either heart disease or cancer, according to a recent study by RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization.

The bulk of that cost involves providing institutional and home-based long-term care rather than medical services, according to the findings, which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study suggests that the costs of dementia could more than double by 2040.

“The economic burden of caring for people in the United States with dementia is large and growing larger,” Michael Hurd, the study's lead author and a senior economist at RAND, told the Journal.

The growing urgency to address the needs of the elderly with mental impairment is being met through a variety of approaches, as illustrated in some recent posts on Healthcare Design Magazine’s website:

• Opened in April, the 94,000-square-foot Stonebridge at Burlington has 110 living units that are designed to allow a greater degree of “aging in place." While 26 apartments of the memory care sub-community are organized around an enclosed outdoor courtyard and common areas, the remaining 84 apartments accommodate both independent residents as well as those fitting a traditional assisted-living profile.

• The Center for Healthy Living opened at Moorings Park in Naples, Fla., focuses on all aspects of physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness for seniors with customized cardio and strength programming, as well as cognitive and memory training.

The Cottages at Cedar Run, a 60-unit memory care residential facility (CBRF), in West Bend, Wis., features customized interior porches and naturally confining courtyard areas.

This topic will also be addressed in detail during the Healthcare Design Conference in November.  In the session “Memory Care Design: It is not one size fits all,” Kim Warchol president and founder of Dementia Care Specialists, will discuss memory care supportive environments and how the physical spaces, including floor plan and interior design elements, must be designed with the specific resident in main and modified to match the stages of dementia the client serves.