Differences between Normal Aging, Dementia, and Alzheimer’s


Normal Aging, Dementia, or Alzheimer’s - What’s the Difference?
Normal aging often involves subtle changes in thought processes and memory. Both dementia and Alzheimer’s involve problems with memory and reasoning, but dementia describes of a set of symptoms that often vary from person-to-person while Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease diagnosis.

Normal Aging.
Compared to past behavior, a person aging normally may have delays in responding to information quickly or multitasking. These changes in behavior do not interfere with the ability to live independently and safely. For people aging normally, a person’s memory, knowledge of items, objects, and skills to complete tasks remain stable.1

A person with dementia has difficulties with memory, attention, communicating, reasoning, using sound judgement, problem solving, and visual perception.2 A person with dementia has such a hard time completing normal, everyday tasks that it disrupts his or her life and possibly his or her safety.

Alzheimer’s Disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. It is a progressive disease of the brain, and it slowly causes a decline in cognitive function. Alzheimer’s disease, like dementia, disrupts a person’s everyday life. Alzheimer’s and dementia share many symptoms but one of the common first signs of Alzheimer’s is when a person forgets events that occurred within minutes or hours.3

Below is a list comparing the symptoms of normal aging, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.

How Do I Know If I’m At Risk?
The risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s is higher for:
  • People ages 65 and older,
  • African-Americans and Hispanics,
  • People with a family history and
  • People with poor heart health.2

Where Do I Get Help or More Information?
If you or a loved one have any symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s, go to see your doctor for testing or visit the Alzheimer’s Association for more information.

1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (n.d.). The Truth About Aging and Dementia. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/dementia-not-normal-aging.html
2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). What is Dementia? Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/aging/dementia/index.html
3Alzheimer’s Association (2019). 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer's. Retrieved from https://alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/10_signs