Over the 5th and 6th September, UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), hosted the International Centenarian Consortium Annual 2018 Conference at the Hydro Majestic in Sydney’s beautiful Blue Mountains, with a clear focus on brain health and its determinants well into late life, and the centenarian as a living model of this.
Leading experts in centenarian studies from around the world convened with an objective of further spearheading an international effort to promote successful ageing.
The conference attendees, who were also guest speakers at CHeBA’s Living to 100 Conference in Darling Harbour, Sydney, included eminent researchers working on centenarian studies. There were representatives from Italy, Sweden, the USA, Portugal, Singapore, China and Japan. An update on centenarian studies, including CHeBA’s own Sydney Centenarian Study, was reported.
Tokyo Centenarian Study researcher, Professor Yasuyuki Gondo, discussed the theory of gerotranscendence, which describes ageing from a psychosocial perspective. Professor Ugo Lucca from the Monzino 80+ Study in Northern Italy, discussed the issue of hearing impairment in exceptionally long-lived individuals, which is more common in males and more prevalent than severe visual loss.
Professor Michel Poulain, a demographer and pioneer of research on the Blue Zones – the hotspots of exceptional longevity around the world, such as the island of Okinawa in Japan and a mountainous region of Sardinia, Italy - discussed how changes in diet and lifestyle factors may detrimentally influence healthspan and lifespan in these regions in the future. He also discussed the novel idea of man-made Blue Zones, which are proposed in the Northern Netherlands and elsewhere, where optimal health and well-being are promoted.
Leader of CHeBA’s Genetics & Epigenomics Group, Dr Karen Mather, discussed genetics work on the Sydney Centenarian Study and other international studies, showing that several genes are associated with exceptional longevity. For example, the important late-onset Alzheimer’s disease risk variant, APOE ε4, is less frequent in exceptionally long-lived individuals.
Dr Takashi Sasaki described whole genome sequencing work on nearly 500 Japanese centenarians and supercentenarians. Dr Yvonne Leung from CHeBA presented work on dementia prevalence and its risk factors across 17 international studies of exceptional longevity, including our own Sydney Centenarian Study. In a sample of over 2,000 adults aged 95 and over, over 50% live with dementia. In this group of the oldest old, the risk of dementia still increases with age. However, education is a protective risk factor even in the exceptionally old.
Convenor of the meeting, CHeBA Co-Director Professor Perminder Sachdev, said that these collaborative meetings are critical to examining demographic change and its impact on society now and in the future.
“Longevity beyond 100 is no longer rare but it remains an exception,” said Professor Sachdev. “It is an exciting time to engage with other international experts to discover the determinants of such longevity, with the expectation that it will help support positive ageing internationally.”
The conference attendees enjoyed a visit to Echo Point in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area as well as to Scenic World.
Friendships were forged and collaborations for future work are planned to unravel the secrets of exceptional longevity.
The next annual meeting will be held in Switzerland in May 2019.