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Gerontology Matters
May/June 2015

The New Zealand Association of Gerontology

In this issue:

A message from the President

On the 15th May I attended Age Concern North Shore’s ‘Vulnerable Older Peoples’ Symposium’. This very popular event was limited to 100 delegates. I am pleased to report that the day was oversubscribed which demonstrates the level of interest in supporting and improving the well-being of older people who are vulnerable. A wide variety of people attended the day including older people, consumers of Age Concern services, health workers, researchers and policy makers.
Professor Matthew Parsons opened the symposium followed by a group of panel presentations that set the scene for the day and assisted with focussing delegates for the group work which comprised most of the day. Following morning tea delegates formed groups where we:
  • Summarised the services/products available to support older vulnerable older people.
  • Identified the gaps in service provision for older people living in the community.
The Minister for Senior Citizens, the Hon Maggie Barry opened the afternoon session with her personal experience  of caring for her mother during her decline into dementia. We then returned to our groups to brainstorm the most urgent gaps in services and to suggest solutions to ‘plug’ these gaps. We then identified ways to prioritise these potential solutions and how best to progress our ideas to action. Key areas that repeatedly came out of groups included issues with transportation, the provision of appropriate and affordable housing and the increasing cultural diversity within the region. The main priorities from the day will be collated and available for NZAG to publish in a later edition of Gerontology Matters.
I congratulate Age Concern North Shore for hosting this very successful event. The programme and atmosphere provided an opportunity to talk, network and meet new people. Age Concern North Shore is a member of a New Zealand network of 34 local Age Concerns and are charitable, not-for-profit organisations. They work to promote quality of life and wellbeing for older people. NZAG and Age Concern NZ already work closely together on several levels and both organisations continue to collaborate to benefit older people living in New Zealand.

Dr Stephen Neville
New Zealand Association of Gerontology


NZAG and Age Concern NZ will be jointly hosting our 2016 conference to be held at Te Papa, 15-17 September 2016.


The International Association of Geriatrics and Gerontology (IAGG)

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The Australian Journal of Ageing content updates

The Australasian Journal of Ageing (AJA) is a comprehensive publication which provides a balance of academic papers, industry perspectives and practice reports. An invaluable source of current information and research, it covers a range of topics including social gerontology, home and community care services, geriatric medicine, health services research and the biology of ageing

NZAG invites members to sign up for free Australasian Journal of Ageing content updates.

In order to receive these updates you must first sign up on Wiley Online Library. After signing up visit the Journal’s homepage and click “Get New Content Alerts” on the left side-bar.

Instructions on how to sign up for Wiley Online Library >
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Information relevant to NZAG members

NZ: Dr. Debra Waters' Research Tour

"I was fortunate to be chosen for a 12 days FRIENZ (Facilitating research and innovation cooperation between Europe and New Zealand) research tour in late April/early May this year. The tour was titled “Living a Long and Healthy Life”.  The aim of the tour was to develop new and to strengthen existing research collaborations across Europe. The tour researchers were myself and Dr. Jonathon Broadbent from the University of Otago, Dr. Mary Breheny from Massey University, Dr. Nicola Kayes from AUT University, and Dr. Ruth Teh from University of Auckland.

It was a whirlwind visit starting at the Max Plank Institute Centre for the Economics of Ageing in Munich, Germany.  We were introduced to the Survey of Health Retirement and Ageing in Europe (SHARE) study leaders and they explained how this multi-country longitudinal study of ageing is conducted. Next stop was Paris.
We had an information session with the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), which is the largest governmental research organisation in France and the largest fundamental science agency in Europe. The CNRS is divided into 10 institutes and employs 32,000 permanent employees (researchers, engineers, and administrative staff) and 6,000 temporary workers. It was a fascinating look at research funding in France.
Then we went to the Université Paris Descartes where we met with several researchers from the Cognition and Action Group. These researchers are investigating a range of topics related to brain function and physical movement. For a bit of fun, they took us up to the rooftop of the building where we enjoyed an exhilarating panorama of Paris.
Next stop was Toulouse, France. Based there are collaborators of mine who are focused primarily on frailty, body composition, and Alzheimers research. We met with my colleagues at the University of Toulouse, Institute of Aging, and then made some new connections through French Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) Epidemiology group.
Then on to VUmc in Amsterdam. The VUmc is a medical centre, closely associated with VU University in Amsterdam. We met with researchers leading the SPOTLIGHT project and Longitudinal Study of Ageing Amsterdam and found many common interests to pursue.
The last stop as a group was University College London (UCL). We met with the researchers of the Behaviour Change Technique Centre. This group is internationally recognized for their work on behaviour change, and Dr. Lou Atkins will be in New Zealand July 2015-2017. She will be conducting workshops on behavioral change techniques in the North and South Island during her 2 year stay in New Zealand. 
After UCL, some people stayed on in the UK visiting other research groups. I went on to the University of Ulster in Belfast. There I visited colleagues in the Center for Health and Rehabilitation Technologies which investigates new technologies to assist older adults to age independently. These visits and those of my colleagues on the tour have resulted in new and strengthened collaborations with the potential to explore new research ideas around helping older New Zealanders live long and healthy lives."
Dr Debra Waters
Associate Professor
University of Otago
Department of Preventive and Social Medicine

Dr Waters is an NZAG Executive member. 

NZ: Supporting People to Move at Home: Practical Tips and Techniques for Carers and Support Workers

2015 - HIIRC

This brochure gives techniques and tips to carers and support workers who are helping people to move in to their home environment.

It instructs people how to best manage certain typical situations, how things like good communication can be practiced and beneficial, and the steps to take in order to ensure all runs smoothly. 

NZ: A Qualitative Study of Nurses' Clinical Experience in Recognizing Low Mood and Depression in Older Patients with Multiple Long-Term Conditions
2015 - HIIRC

In this qualitative study, the authors explore how 40 nurses (working in geographically diverse areas in New Zealand) recognize depression in older patients with multiple long-term conditions and the strategies they use to support the patient. "Having the conversation with older patients about their low moods, or specifically about depression was not something that all the nurses had, or felt they could have. While some nurses knew they could provide specific advice to patients, others believed this was not their responsibility, or within the scope of their role"". The authors discuss the implications of these findings.

Click here to read full abstract >

NZ: New Roles Support Earlier Dementia Diagnosis in South Island
2015 - HIIRC

South Island Alliance Media Release, 14 May 2015

The South Island Alliance's Health of Older Peoples group (HOPSLA) has announced the recent appointment of two new part-time Primary Care Dementia Education Coordinator roles, a move which looks set to support improved diagnosis and quality of life for dementia patients living in the South Island. 

The new roles are in response to the fact that many people with dementia are receiving a diagnosis late in their illness as Jenny Keightley, Chair of HOPSLA explains, “helping GPs to make an early diagnosis of dementia and providing links to support services can make a real difference to the patient and their family. It can reduce stigma and enable people with dementia to understand their condition, access treatments that could help relieve their symptoms and improve their quality of life. It can also give them time to plan for the future. The new positions are an exciting development as they will specifically focus on primary care settings, looking at the education resources and the implementation of a dementia education programme across the South Island, so that we can help promote better, earlier diagnosis of dementia and continuity of care.”

Click to see full article >

NZ: Analgesic medicine utilization in older people in New Zealand from 2005 to 2013 

Published 2015 - HIIRC

The aim of this population-based study was to describe and characterise the utilisation of analgesic medicines in older people in New Zealand from 2005 to 2013. Repeated cross-sectional analysis of population-level dispensing data was conducted from 2005 to 2013. Dispensing data were obtained from Pharmaceutical Claims Data Mart (Pharms), Ministry of Health. Utilisation of analgesics was measured in defined daily dose (DDD) per 1000 older people per day (TOPD). This study showed a 5.44% increase in utilisation of analgesic medicines in older people in New Zealand from 2005 to 2013. Key findings included that (1) females utilised more analgesics compared with males; (2) non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) utilisation decreased over the years; and (3) the highest utilisation was reported in the 85+ group. The authors suggest that further research is warranted to examine the drivers influencing analgesic use in New Zealand.

Full study available here >

NZ: Prevalence of potentially inappropriate medicine use in older New Zealanders
Published 2015 - HIIRC

A population-level study using the updated 2012 Beers criteria

In this study the authors use the updated Beers 2012 criteria to investigate the prevalence of potentially inappropiate medicines (PIMs) in older New Zealanders at a population level. From their analysis of the results, they conclude that "... the use of PIMs at a population level is common in older New Zealanders."

Read full article here > 

NZ: New About Dementia Booklet

Published 2015 - Alzheimer's New Zealand

A new booklet titled About Dementia has been released by 'Alzheimer's New Zealand.' It is the first in a comprehensive new series of booklets being developed as part of a cross-agency project to develop a new, nationally consistent suite of resources for people affected by dementia. 

You can access a downloadable pdf copy of About Dementia here.

NZ: Peeking into healthy brains to see if Alzheimer's is brewing (+video) 

Published in NZHerald

Sticky plaque gets the most attention, but now healthy seniors at risk of Alzheimer's are letting scientists peek into their brains to see if another culprit is lurking.

No one knows what actually causes Alzheimer's, but the suspects are its two hallmarks - the gunky amyloid in those brain plaques or tangles of a protein named tau that clog dying brain cells. New imaging can spot those tangles in living brains, providing a chance to finally better understand what triggers dementia. 

Now researchers are adding tau brain scans to an ambitious study that's testing if an experimental drug might help healthy but at-risk people stave off Alzheimer's. Whether that medication works or not, it's the first drug study where scientists can track how both of Alzheimer's signature markers begin building up in older adults before memory ever slips.

"The combination of amyloid and tau is really the toxic duo," predicted Dr Reisa Sperling of Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who is leading the so-called A4 study, which is enrolling participants in the US, Australia and Canada. "To see it in life is really striking."

The A4 study - it stands for Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer's - aims to enrol 1000 healthy seniors like Judith Chase Gilbert, 77. The recently retired government worker is mentally sharp but learned through the study that her brain harbors amyloid buildup that might increase her risk. Last week, researchers slid Gilbert into a doughnut-shaped PET scanner as she became one of the first study participants to also have their brains scanned for tau.

Read more here >

NZ: Increase in over-65s strain on health system - Government

Published by 3 News

There are 675,000 people over 65 in New Zealand now and the Government expects there will be 900,000 by 2025.

The increase is creating "emerging challenges" for the health system and the need for a new strategy, says Associate Health Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga.

"We need to ensure healthcare continues to be effective and affordable for that growing demand," he said today.

"A greater focus on new models of care and wellness will ensure the health system can keep up with the changing needs and expectations of our ageing population." 

Mr Lotu-Iiga says the refreshed NZ Health Strategy will be completed by the end of the year.

"It will provide a clear direction and priority areas to focus on."
The current NZ Health Strategy was released in 2002.

NZ: How to Keep your Brain Sharp

Published by

Keeping your brain sharp requires more than just a game of Sudoku every morning says Dr Jim Stinear, of the University of Auckland's Department of Sport and Exercise Science. Dr Jim Stinear explains that not getting enough physical exercise can affect the brain.

Particularly, a lack of exercise reduces the number of neurons in our brains, and also dulls our memory and our ability to resolve conflict, he said.

"Scientific literature strongly supports the use of physical activity to enhance brain function," he said.

"If we are not exercising then our natural reduction in neurons in parts of the brain advances at quite a reasonable rate.

"In fact, the mental decline of a lot of healthy older people is now considered to be a result of a lack of proper blood flow to the brain, rather than just ageing nerve cells."

Read full article here > 

NZ: Older Workers Valuable, Better in a Crisis - Report

Originally posted by 3 News

Workers aged over 50 are seen as valuable, hard-working and better in a crisis, a new report says. The Government's Workforce Ageing Survey report says older New Zealanders represent a powerful market force.
It surveyed 2631 public service employees.

Senior Citizens Minister Maggie Barry, whose department took part in the survey, says it shows older people are key contributors to the economy.
"More and more older people are staying in the workforce past the age of 65, and 22 percent of over-65s are currently in some form of paid employment," she said. "This will rise to more than 30 percent by 2036."

Ms Barry says the survey also showed a general lack of planning to recruit older people, and age discrimination is still a problem in many workplaces.

"Around 40 percent of older workers have experienced some form of age-related discrimination in the last five years," she said.
"This is unacceptable. Older people still want rewarding and challenging careers and the skills they have are highly desirable for businesses."

Read More >

Holland: Robot teaches exercises classes in Dutch retirement home

Originally posted by

In so many areas it has proved challenging for the older generation to keep up with technology - but now, it appears technology is aimed at helping them. Residents of Dutch nursing home 'Vughterstede' have been delighted by the introduction of a robot, who from his perch atop a table, goes on to direct the people around him in a routine of exercises. 

The Zora robot is also being used in hospitals and one psychiatric institution.

"A lot of elderly people are actually feeling alone. Solitude is something which is horrible for the moment for a lot of elderly people," said Fabrice Goffin, one of Zora's creators. "People don't have all the time to visit their families and they can find some kind of relationship with the robot and that is a nice thing to do."

At Kardol's nursing home, the robot spends most of its time in a common area. It reads out weather forecasts and news articles. It's programmed so that a staff member can type instructions for what to say on a computer.

In some cases, the robot has been able to accomplish what humans can't. Kardol told me of one resident who hadn't spoken in four months. One day late last year she was sitting in the common area next to her son. The staff used the robot to address her by name and ask how she was doing.

"I'm well," she blurted out, surprising everyone in attendance. They then carried on a brief conversation. Interactions like that have motivated Kardol as a researcher to investigate why the robot can trigger positive reactions from those who struggle to communicate.

To others, the appearance of robots in nursing homes might be a sad commentary on how we treat the elderly. Will we all one day let our loved ones be entertained by machines, while we go about our busy lives? And will robots ever replace the humans in nursing homes, once they can do the job at a lower price?

Canada: Why a Weak Handshake is Bad News for your Heart

Published - NZHerald

The strength of your handshake could indicate the chance of a future heart attack, a major study suggests.

Researchers found that the vigour of a person's grip could predict the risk of heart attacks and strokes - and was a stronger indicator of death than checking systolic blood pressure.

The study in The Lancet, involving almost 140,000 adults in 17 countries, found weak grip strength was linked to shorter survival and a greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Reduced muscular strength, which can be measured by grip strength, has been consistently linked with early death, disability, and illness. But there has been limited research on whether grip strength could be used to indicate heart health.

Grip strength was assessed using a device that measures the force exerted when a subject squeezes an object as hard as possible with their hands.

The findings show that every five-kilo decline in grip strength was associated with a 16 per cent increased risk of death from any cause; a 17 per cent greater risk of cardiovascular death; a 17 per cent higher risk of non-cardiovascular mortality and more modest increases in the risk of having a heart attack (seven per cent) or a stroke (nine per cent).

Overall, grip strength was a stronger predictor of all deaths, including those from heart disease, than systolic blood pressure.

The associations persisted even after taking into account differences in other factors that can affect mortality or heart disease such as age, education level, employment status, physical activity level, and tobacco and alcohol use.

Dr Darryl Leong, of McMaster University in Canada, who was the lead author, said: "Grip strength could be an easy and inexpensive test to assess an individual's risk of death and cardiovascular disease."

"Further research is needed to establish whether efforts to improve muscle strength are likely to reduce an individual's risk of death and cardiovascular disease."

Norway: Key to aged health: 30 minutes of exercise

Originally posted by 3 News

Elderly men who do 30 minutes of physical activity six days a week are likely to have a 40 percent lower risk of premature death compared with couch-potato counterparts, researchers say.

For men in this age group, just a small amount of regular exercise - regardless of intensity - is as beneficial as giving up smoking, they said today.

The evidence comes from a major project in Norway called the Oslo Study. In it, doctors enrolled thousands of men born between 1923 and 1932, who were given health checkups and volunteered information about their lifestyle and physical activity.

The initiative was launched in 1972-3 with a first survey among nearly 15,000 men. In 2000, the survey was repeated among the same group, of whom 12,700 had survived. Of these, 5700 were able or willing to continue in the research. By 2011, deaths reduced this total to just under 3600.

Read more >

UK: Women and Dementia: A global research review

Published by Alzheimer's New Zealand

This important and timely report reveals the disproportionate impact dementia has on women  - most people living with dementia are women and women are more at risk of developing dementia than men; women are more likely to be the primary caregiver in a family situation involving dementia affecting their health, social relationships and financial security; and women are also most likely to be the provider of formal care in the community and in hospitals and care homes where low status, poor salary and inadequate training affects them, their family and people living with dementia. 

The full report is available here and the summary version here

Sweden: Effects of preventive home visits by district nurses on self-reported health of 75-year-olds
2015 - HIIRC

In this cluster-controlled trial carried out in Stockholm, the authors analysed the effects of preventive home visits by district nurses on the self reported health of 75 year olds.

An intervention group included 176 participants and the control group 262 participants. Participants filled in a questionnaire before and after the intervention, and those in the intervention group received a preventive health visit from a district nurse, while the control group received usual care. 

After the intervention, both groups reported decreased health and well-being, although the intervention group reported a significant reduction in pain as an effect of the home visit, increased knowledge of local services, more contacts with their health care centres and increased use of medication. 

Read full article here >

UK: Supporting Self-Management: Helping People Manage Long-Term Conditions
2015 - HIIRC

The prevalence of long-term conditions is increasing and there is a move towards encouraging people to manage their conditions. Supporting self-management is key to maintaining the health and well-being of people with long-term conditions.

Two recent well conducted systematic reviews form the basis of this evidence briefing. Both reviews summarise evidence about self-management published up to June 2012. The RECURSIVE review focused on the effect of self-management on health services utilization and costs, the PRISMS review summarized the key components of self-management and looked at issues around implementation. 

Read full briefing >

US: Scientists find immune system link in onset of Alzheimer's

Originally posted by 3 News
The immune system may play a part in Alzheimer's disease, US researchers have discovered, in a breakthrough which could lead to the development of new treatments for the most common form of dementia.
A Duke University study has found that certain immune system cells which normally protect the brain begin to consume a key nutrient, arginine.
In tests on mice, researchers were able to block the process with a small-molecule drug to prevent brain plaques and memory loss.

The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, found that although the exact role of immune system cells was unclear, the research could point to a new potential cause of Alzheimer's while eventually opening a door to a new treatment strategy.

"If indeed arginine consumption is so important to the disease process, maybe we could block it and reverse the disease," said Carol Colton, Professor of Neurology at the Duke University School of Medicine, a senior author of the study.

Read more >

UK: Diabetes self-management programmes in older adults

The evidence for self-management programmes in older adults varies in methodological approaches, and disease criteria. Using predetermined methodological criteria, this systematic study evaluated the effect of diabetes-specific self-management programme interventions in older adults.

Diabetes self-management programmes for older adults demonstrate a small reduction in HbA1c, lipids and blood pressure. These findings may be of greater clinical relevance when offered in conjunction with other therapies.

Read Full Study Here >

Member-Only Resources 

Did you know: As a member of the New Zealand Association of Gerontology you have access to the member-only section of our website, giving you access to exclusive member-only news articles and blog posts. This section now newly includes webinar summaries and resources from the Australian Association of Gerontology.

You must be logged in to view member-only content on the Gerontology website.

If you are having problems logging in, or have forgotten your username or password please email so we can sort it out for you.

Global Disability, Ageing & Healthcare Conferences Online Guide 

See a comprehensive list of conferences on the Global Disability and Health Care Services website.
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