“Everyone knows a cancer survivor; no one knows a dementia survivor.” Dr Dale Bredesen, Founding President, Buck Institute for Research on Aging and Professor, Department of Neurology, UCLA delivered this grave message at the recent National University of Singapore (NUS) Greater Good Series event titled: Age Well Every Day: East-West Perspectives on Preventing Cognitive Decline Without Drugs.
Associate Professor John Wong, Director, Mind Science Centre, NUS, opened the event by charting the University’s work in developing mental resilience across all ages. He stressed the importance of empowering the youth, the leaders of tomorrow, to overcome the challenges awaiting them in adulthood, and caring for the elderly facing cognitive decline. Prof Wong also underlined the vital role that philanthropy has played in the development of the Centre.
The event moderator, Professor Kua Ee Heok, Tan Geok Ying Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at NUS, shared that two of the biggest challenges facing developing countries are an ageing population and dementia. He explained that he has been running a life-changing programme to delay the onset of dementia – incorporating exercise, nutrition, mindfulness and mentally stimulating games such as mahjong – with the elderly in Jurong. The success of this initiative has led to it being taken up by the People’s Association and there are plans to roll out the programme to 83 centres across Singapore.
With approximately 15 per cent of Americans, or 45 million people, expected to succumb to Alzheimer’s, Dr Bredesen provided some exciting news from the West about the battle against dementia. He shared that “we are in the midst of a revolution” as, for the first time in history, there are cases of Alzheimer’s being reversed. Dr Bredesen and his team have been running a “Reversal Cognitive Decline” programme – or Recode – which comprises 36 different components such as diet, exercise, sleep, stress, herbs, and hormones. The majority of patients who follow the programme to the letter have got better. He shared a message of hope that there is the potential to reduce the global burden of dementia that the world currently faces.
Professor Hong Hai, Senior Fellow, Institute of Advanced Studies, Nanyang Technological University, provided an Eastern perspective on dementia. He shared that in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) dementia results from a poorer flow of the body’s vital energy – qi – and blood, as well as internal imbalances. These are exacerbated by ageing and inappropriate lifestyles.
According to TCM, there are many foods that may help dementia: those that tonify the kidneys, such as walnut and wolfberry; those that improve qi, strengthen the spleen and stomach, such as Chinese yam and lotus seeds; and food that improves circulation, such as black fungus and hawthorne. Practising the ancient art of Taijiquan helps to improve circulation and cognitive function, whilst repetitive exercises, such as rotating walnuts in your hand, also improve cognitive function. Prof Hong also shared that acupressure and massage help to regulate and stimulate mental activity.
The NUS Greater Good Series features talks by leading minds on topics related to philanthropy. These include generosity, giving and service to the community, as well as leadership, personal well-being and mental resilience. The Series aims to raise awareness of philanthropy and its impact on society. The Series was made possible thanks to a generous gift from Newsman Realty Pte Ltd.For further information on the NUS Greater Good Series, contact the Events team at firstname.lastname@example.org.