Dementia-prevention programme to expand to 40 centres by 2023, up from 9

Dementia affects 10 per cent of people aged 60 and above, and is expected to become more prevalent with the ageing population.
Dementia affects 10 per cent of people aged 60 and above, and is expected to become more prevalent with the ageing population. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Around 2,000 more people aged 50 and above who are at risk of dementia will benefit from a programme that aims to prevent the disease.

The Age Well Every Day programme, which has activities such as mindfulness awareness practice and exercise, will be scaled up to 40 centres by 2023, up from its current nine centres.

Participants can engage in activities such as music and art therapy and gardening once every two weeks for 12 sessions, which last two hours each.

Joining the programme is free, but potential participants have to undergo a psycho-social assessment to determine if they have cognitive decline, as well as have their blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index measured.

Six of the current centres are in Queenstown, Eunos, Tampines Changkat, Bishan North, Hougang and Chong Pang. The other three centres are the Training and Research Academy at Jurong Point, Hannah Seniors Activity Centre in Toh Yi Drive and Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery.

Run by the National University of Singapore (NUS) Mind-Science Centre, the programme has helped around 300 seniors since it started in October last year.

Dementia affects 10 per cent of people aged 60 and above, and is expected to become more prevalent with the ageing population. By 2030, 900,000 people in Singapore will be aged 65 and above.

Said Professor Kua Ee Heok, senior consultant at the National University Hospital: "As we cross the age of 65, the proportion of people with dementia increases."

He added that risk factors for dementia include high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. These conditions can lead to complications such as stroke, which can then result in a loss of cognitive function, said Prof Kua.

To reach out to more volunteers for the programme, a new online portal to conduct training will be rolled out by the end of the year. With the portal, 80 per cent of the training will be conducted online, while the rest will be taught by trainers in classroom sessions.

The programme currently has around 100 volunteers and aims to recruit another 120 by 2023.

The NUS Mind-Science Centre has partnered the Stroke Support Station and the Singapore University of Social Sciences to launch the portal, signing a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday (Feb 20).

The Age Well Every Day programme is an offshoot of the Dementia Prevention Programme from the Jurong Ageing Study.

The 10-year study, which began in 2013 and is led by NUS, has found that activities such as music, art, mindfulness therapy and taiji reduced anxiety levels and symptoms of depression in seniors.