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?


'I've got the best job for you dad. Your shaky arm will be perfect for it!'

Children… honest and insightful. Their innocence warms the heart. But what words do you use to explain to a child that daddy has an incurable brain disease? What words tell them that in time he may not be able to play football in the park, let alone feed himself? What words help them understand that in the later stages, dementia may also strike? Aged just 36, this was the reality that faced Steve Hartley. Parkinson's disease didn't care he was a fit, healthy, a young dad and devoted husband. It also didn't seem to care his family had no history of it. The key to defeating Parkinson's disease is early intervention, and thanks to a global research team, led by NeuRA, we're pleased to announce that early intervention may be possible. Your support, alongside national and international foundations Shake it Up Australia and the Michael J Fox Foundation, researchers have discovered that a special protein, found in people with a family history of the disease increases prior to Parkinson’s symptoms developing. This is an incredible step forward, because it means that drug therapies, aimed at blocking the increase in the protein, can be administered much earlier – even before symptoms strike. The next step is to understand when to give the drug therapies and which people will most benefit from it. But we need your help. A gift today will support vital research and in time help medical professionals around the world treat Parkinson’s disease sooner, with much better health outcomes. Thank you, in advance, for your support.