Research round-up

Investigating older drivers and vision loss; report calls for action on Indigenous people and dementia; new research on older people and pets; crunching the numbers on ageing.

In this story:

  • Investigating older drivers and vision loss
  • Report calls for action on Indigenous people and dementia
  • New research on older people and pets
  • Crunching the numbers on ageing
Investigating older drivers and vision loss

Older drivers with age-related vision loss are the focus of a new Australian study to test their on-the-road performance.

Professor Joanne Wood from Queensland University of Technology said age-related macular degeneration (AMD) was the leading cause of blindness and loss of vision in Australia.

Joanne Wood
Joanne Wood

The results from the study would indicate the nature of the driving difficulties experienced by participants in the group and assist in the design of possible interventions, Dr Wood said.

She said major advances in treatment of AMD helped prevent further deterioration as long as possible.

“While the treatment doesn’t cure the condition it has allowed people to continue to perform every-day activities such as driving,” Professor Wood said.

“Driving allows people to maintain their independence for longer and has been shown to have a positive effect on quality of life.”

Professor Wood said one in seven Australians over 50 years of age have some evidence of age-related macular degeneration.

“Our goal is to maintain the safe driving ability for people with these eye conditions for as long as possible. This could be achieved through education and training interventions.”

Professor Wood said possible interventions such as driver training, including training of scanning strategies as well as education are likely to assist in maintaining and improving driver safety.

Participants would be involved in two testing sessions, involving a series of vision, memory and awareness tests. The second session would be a 45-minute driving research assessment with a qualified driving instructor which would have no effect on a participant’s driver’s licence.

Participants can contact the research team via email:

Report calls for action on Indigenous people and dementia
Alzheimer's Australia report
Alzheimer’s Australia report

Policies must be implemented to reduce the risk of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians developing dementia, following research findings that they experience dementia at a rate three times higher than the general Australian population.

An Alzheimer’s Australia report, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and Dementia: A review of the research, has outlined the prevalence of dementia and modifiable risk factors in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

It discussed a range of policy and service implications of the growing number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with dementia and is based on research conducted in Western Australia, Queensland, the NT and NSW.

“Action is needed to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with dementia and their family members are receiving culturally-appropriate services and supports now and into the future,” said Graeme Samuel, national president of Alzheimer’s Australia.

“Incorporating dementia into pre-existing health strategies as well as widely disseminating Alzheimer’s Australia’s Your Story Matters resources will help raise awareness of the modifiable risk factors of dementia and assist in the timely diagnosis of the condition.

“Training packages targeting dementia awareness, including the use of culturally-appropriate cognitive screening tools, should be promoted to mainstream health professionals and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers to support access to timely diagnosis,” he said.

Click here to read the full report

New research on older people and pets
IFA’s new report

The health impact of pets on older people is explored in a new report published by the International Federation on Ageing. The report, Companion Animals and the Health of Older Persons, provides a literature review into the ways pets contribute to the physical and mental health of individuals and the well-being of society.

“This field of research has important implications across generations and also for the future of our broader societies,” said Dr Jane Barratt, International Federation on Ageing.

“Many studies have broadly discussed how pets, such as dogs and cats, contribute to health by reducing anxiety, loneliness and depression, but until today have not yet been published in a single resource. This new report advances our understanding of the value of companion animals in the framework of human health and the broader society,” she said.

The interaction between humans and animals is powerful; animals can educate, motivate, and enhance the quality of life for people around the world, said Michael Devoy, chief medical officer, Bayer HealthCare, which sponsored the report.

“Given the scope of this report, we are excited that this research has the ability to reach human healthcare practitioners, veterinarians, doctors, nurses, gerontologists, and social workers,” Mr Devoy said.

Click here to access the full report

Crunching the numbers on ageing

The average older Australian is a 75-year-old Anglican woman who drives a car, votes for the Coalition and lives at home with her spouse – according to data crunched by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR).

More than three million Australians are aged over 65, more than the combined total populations of Perth and Adelaide. “It is a very diverse group but we wanted to know what the typical older person is like,” said CEPAR research fellow Rafal Chomik.

CEPAR's number crunch
CEPAR’s number crunch

CEPAR’s analysis of the 2011 census showed there are 400,000 Australians aged 85 and over, which is greater than the population of Canberra; some 28,000 Australians are aged 95 and over, which is more than the population of Alice Springs; and there are 3,000 Australian centenarians.

The analysis showed the average older Australian is aged 75 years, female, owns a three-bedroom home, lives with her spouse, drives a car, has broadband access, has a nursing qualification, and has a weekly income of $200-$400. Furthermore, she can carry out her daily activities without assistance, attends Anglican congregation, and votes for the Coalition.

Tags: dementia, older-drivers, pets, research,

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