A*Star-NUHS to study health of above-90s

What determines how healthy one will be when one reaches 90 or older? The SG90 Longevity Study will be taking the pulse of 1,000 people in this age group to find out how to help the elderly live longer and better.

The study was launched yesterday by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and the National University Health System (NUHS). It will recruit people who have lived here for a long time and look at indicators, such as their nutrition levels and immunity, to understand better how the elderly can live longer without age-related conditions such as diabetes.

Associate Professor Chong Yap Seng, who oversees the study, said it will look at a "basket of indicators" so that interventions can be made before symptoms of age-related diseases develop.

"All these can be used as biological indicators so that we can look at a 50-year-old and say he is likely to remain relatively healthy going forward," added Prof Chong, executive director of A*Star's Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences and Senior Consultant, NUHS.

While such studies are already conducted elsewhere, this study will be the first to focus on three major Asian ethnicities - Chinese, Malays and Indians.

By 2030, about one in five Singapore residents will be above the age of 65.

The chairman of A*Star, Mr Lim Chuan Poh, who announced the study at the inaugural A*Star-NUHS Biology of Ageing Conference yesterday, said: "The society is, of course, looking for the fountain of youth, but we all know that we can keep on looking because I don't think we can find it. On the other hand, our understanding of the ageing process and its associated diseases is still incomplete."

Recruitment for the study will officially start next year and participants will have to go for check-ups once every six months. There are plans to study the health of the participants' children and spouses later so that more can be understood about the impact of genetics and environmental factors on age-related diseases.

At the event, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong announced a grant call to seek research and innovation ideas to delay the onset of dementia in older adults, as well as new ways to provide quality and cost-effective care for seniors with dementia.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2015, with the headline A*Star-NUHS to study health of above-90s. Subscribe