Aboriginal ageing



“Healthy ageing is your mind staying young” many Australians would agree with this statement by an older Aboriginal. With increasing lifespan, healthy ageing is becoming synonymous with healthy brain ageing and dementia prevention is being recognised as a national and global priority.

It is known that events that occur throughout our lives may have an effect on how well we age. Examples of early life factors that could affect physical health and brain function later in life are issues that arise during pregnancy and birth, early life events and illnesses, education and parenting. Mid-life factors include high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, obesity, heart and lung disease, alcohol and drug use and education, job experience and training. Later life factors include cognitive changes due to age, dementia, the impact of the life expectancy gap and access to aged care services.

What we have discovered

There are growing numbers of older Aboriginal Australians, but recent research at NeuRA has found that dementia prevalence is three times higher in Aboriginal peoples compared to estimates for the general Australian population. This disparity in dementia rates is a consistent finding across remote, regional and urban communities.

Aboriginal Elders play vital roles in their communities and further research is required to understand the causes of these higher rates of dementia, reduce the burden of dementia and improve health and longevity for Aboriginal Australians, as they grow older.

About our research

The Broe Group focuses on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal Australians and how best to support their cognitive health in older age. An important part of this work involves finding the best ways to ensure people gain access to the health services they need. The aim of our research is to look at healthy ageing in its wider social context and investigate what services can support improvements in Aboriginal health, especially in older people.

By liaising with Aboriginal communities and representatives, we have identified that there is enormous interest amongst Aboriginal people in understanding the scope of age-related diseases like dementia in their communities.

Through the Koori Growing Old Well Study, we are gathering information from approximately 500 Aboriginal people aged 60 years and above living in cities, smaller towns and country areas in New South Wales.

Please see below for Our Latest Research

Read about Valerie’s experience of participating in the Koori Growing Old Well study.


Koori Growing Old Well Study

The primary aim of a proposed longitudinal study is to find the reasons for the high dementia rates (three times non-Indigenous rates) in urban/regional Aboriginal people.

Koori Dementia Care Project

The Koori Dementia Care Project (KDCP) aims to inform, educate and build capacity in urban and regional NSW Aboriginal communities, and with associated service providers, about the effects of dementia on older Aboriginal people and their families.

Koori active and healthy ageing project

The project examines how to implement evidence based healthy brain ageing (dementia prevention) programs in urban and regional Aboriginal communities.

Falls, ageing and dementia in Indigenous Australians

We aim to identify determinants for the high prevalence of dementia in Indigenous Australians, and will now extend these findings by exploring determinants for the high prevalence of falls.

Neuropathology of frontotemporal dementia

Unlike other neurodegenerative conditions, people with FTD may have one of a number different underlying cellular brain changes. Patients followed longitudinally in life are enrolled into the brain bank so that we can gain insights into the pathological processes in FTD.

What else is happening in Aboriginal ageing research at NeuRA?


The cold case of schizophrenia - broken wide open!

‘It is like they were miraculously healed!’’ Schizophrenia is diagnosed by clinical observation of behaviour and speech. This is why NeuRA researchers are working hard to understand the biological basis of the illness. Through hours of work and in collaboration with doctors and scientists here and around the world, NeuRA has made an amazing breakthrough. For the first time, researchers have discovered the presence of antibodies in the brains of people who lived with schizophrenia. Having found these antibodies, it has led NeuRA researchers to ask two questions. What are they doing there? What should we do about the antibodies– help or remove them? This is a key breakthrough. Imagine if we are treating schizophrenia all wrong! It is early days, but can you imagine the treatment implications if we’ve identified a new biological basis for the disease? It could completely change the way schizophrenia is managed, creating new treatments that will protect the brain. More than this, could we be on the verge of discovering a ‘curable’ form of schizophrenia? How you can help We are so grateful for your loyal support of schizophrenia research in Australia, and today I ask if you will consider a gift today. Or, to provide greater confidence, consider becoming a Discovery Partner by making a monthly commitment. We believe there is great potential to explore these findings. Will you help move today’s breakthrough into tomorrow’s cure? To read more about this breakthrough, click ‘read the full story’ below. You are also invited to read ‘Beth’s story’, whose sweet son Marcus lived with schizophrenia, by clicking here.