Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Gerontologist 59:2 (2019), 281–289.



Copyright © 2017 Marc A. Garcia, Brian Downer, Chi-Tsun Chiu, Joseph L. Saenz, Sunshine Rote, and Rebeca Wong. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America. Used by permission.


Background and Objectives: To document racial/ethnic and nativity differences by gender in cognitive life expectancies among older adults in the United States.

Research Design and Methods: Sullivan-based life tables were used to estimate cognitively normal, cognitively impaired/ no dementia (CIND), and dementia life expectancies by gender for White, Black, U.S.-born Hispanic, and foreign-born Hispanic adults 50 years and older in the Health and Retirement Study.

Results: Among women, the number of years spent living with dementia for Whites, Blacks, U.S.-born Hispanics, and foreign-born Hispanics was 1.6, 3.9, 4.7, and 6.0 years, respectively. For men, Whites lived 1.1 years with dementia compared to 3.1 years for Blacks, 3.0 years for U.S.-born Hispanics and 3.2 years for foreign-born Hispanics. Similar patterns were observed for race/ethnic and nativity differences in CIND life expectancies. Blacks and Hispanics spend a larger fraction of their remaining years with CIND and dementia relative to Whites, regardless of gender. Foreign-born Hispanic men and women and Black men are particularly disadvantaged in the proportion of years spent after age 50 with CIND and/ or dementia.

Discussion and Implications: Disparities in cognitive life expectancies indicate that intervention strategies should target the specific needs of minority and immigrant older adults with dementia. Given that education is a strong predictor of cognitive health, improving access to the social and economic resources that delay dementia onset is key to improving the well-being of diverse older adults.