The Island Study Linking Ageing and Neurodegenerative Disease (ISLAND) project is seeking to recruit 10,000 Tasmanians, aged over 50, to take part in a range of studies aimed at understanding who is most at risk of dementia.
The project aims to illustrate how we can “self-manage” risk behaviours to build resilience to the disease using diet and exercise, as well as improving social contact or pursuing further education. It will also explore genetic and biomarker risk factors for dementia.
The research will include surveys, online courses and medical testing and is being run by the Hobart-based Wicking Dementia Research Centre. The project will involve engagement in the highly successful Wicking Dementia Centre’s Preventing Dementia Massive Open Online Course, which has been completed by 250,000 people from more than 180 countries.
Centre director, Professor James Vickers, said that it would be the first dementia study anywhere in the world to eventually target a whole population through a public health and educational campaign. Tasmania has approximately 12,000 people living with dementia and the prediction is that by mid-century that number will rise to 30,000.
“We’re really looking at using the entire state of Tasmania as a test bed to see if we can reduce the risk of dementia,” Professor Vickers said.
“It’s vital if you are going to do these studies looking at biomarkers and genetics, that you have a large sample size in the thousands … That’s one of the reasons we need at least 10,000 Tasmanians to sign up to this study.”
The research team is hoping that initial participants will become ambassadors and engage their friends, colleagues and wider community, aiming to see if the risk of dementia can be reduced at a whole population level. The island state is an attractive site for the study because it has the oldest population in Australia and is continuing to age at a faster rate than the rest of Australia.
For more information or to register your interest in the project, visit https://islandproject.utas.edu.au/.