Newsom calls on former California First Lady Maria Shriver to lead Alzheimer’s task force

Former California First Lady Maria Shriver will lead a new Alzheimer’s Prevention and Preparedness Task Force, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in his first State of the State address Tuesday.

Newsom said Shriver will be joined in the group by “the most renowned scientists and thinkers” who’d help the state prepare for a disease commonly associated with aging.

“The Golden State is getting grayer. We need to get ready for the major demographic challenge headed our way,” Newsom said.

Shriver recently penned an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times titled “An Alzheimer’s epidemic is coming. Here’s how to prepare.”

In the editorial, Shriver wrote that “every 65 seconds in the United States a new brain develops Alzheimer’s.”

She wrote that women over 60 are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s than breast cancer, while African Americans are twice as likely to develop the disease and Latinx people are 1.5 times as likely.

In his speech, Newsom said “for the first time in our history, older Californians will outnumber young children.”

The statewide senior population is expected to grow by 4 million over the next 10 years and to double in 25 years.

“Growing old knows no boundaries, aging doesn’t care what race you are, your economic status, or if you’re single with no other family support,” said Newsom, who acknowledged the recent death of his father who had dementia.

He called for a new state master plan on aging that must address “person-centered care, the patchwork of public services, social isolation, bed-locked seniors in need of transportation, the nursing shortage and demand for in-home supportive services that far outpaces its capacity.”

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.