In Conversation with Global Leader in Dementia Research, Professor Kaarin Anstey

Senior Principal Research Scientist and global leader in dementia and ageing research, Professor Kaarin Anstey, leads the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Cognitive Health. She is a director of the NHMRC Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration and co-deputy director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research.


Prof Anstey is a member of the WHO Guideline Development Group on Dementia Risk Reduction and joined NeuRA this year to lead an innovative multi-disciplinary team addressing ageing research and dementia prevention. In this issue, we ask some questions about her research and how to live and age well.


Why is ageing well important?

“There are so many reasons, the first one, is that we are all living longer. By 2050, 50% of the world will be over the age of 65; this is an unprecedented demographic change. But living longer doesn’t necessarily mean living better or without a disability. On an individual level, we should be taking steps to ensure that we have a good quality of life, not just a long one. With the concomitant rise of chronic disease with ageing and the associated health costs, we also need to think how as a society we can optimise how we age and stay well for as long as possible.”


How does one age well?

“There is not a single answer. To age well requires a combination of many factors, but I can say that the big three are: Remaining (or becoming) physically active, socially engaged and to stop smoking. But for more information on what individuals can do, I would encourage them to watch my talk on dementia risk factors.”


What is your current research?

“My current big project is actually reviewing the quality of evidence available to researchers on dementia risk reduction, to ensure we are all moving forward with the same and most accurate data. I am also investigating the evidence from a global perspective, and this is important because we know there are different rates of dementia in different parts of the world, but most of the research on lifestyle comes from high-income countries. And I must mention that I am continuing my work with the WHO on the evidence base for dementia risk reduction, and my older driver interventions research, ensuring that we stay independent well into older age.”


Where is the future of dementia research going?

“We are definitely moving towards big data studies that are more collaborative, international and interdisciplinary. We are also moving toward research that investigates the environment and its role in ageing well and taking a life-course to understanding the brain in old-age and why it can fail us.”

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