Aboriginal ageing



“Healthy ageing is your mind staying young” many Australians would agree with this statement by an older Aboriginal person. 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 and Radford Group focus 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, since 2008 we have been gathering information from over 300 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

“Healthy ageing is your mind staying young” – Koori Growing Old Well Study participant


Healthy Ageing calls for cognitively, physically and socially active lifestyles. The current project seeks to recognise existing community strengths but work to enhance participation and engagement, provide new resources specific to healthy ageing and develop an accessible platform for rolling out this intervention to diverse older people and communities, enabling widespread benefit. We will trial a cutting-edge approach to advance healthy ageing with implications for many Australians to benefit, particularly older Aboriginal people.

The project examines how to implement evidence based healthy ageing programs in urban and regional Aboriginal communities. Elders play a vital role in Indigenous communities, providing leadership, caring for family, and transmitting cultural knowledge and practices. However, the health, well-being and quality of life of the increasing numbers of older Indigenous people, are threatened by high rates of dementia, falls and depression. Novel culturally-safe approaches are needed to better engage and support Indigenous peoples in terms of healthy ageing. This research will develop and evaluate effective, culturally appropriate, and accessible strategies to promote healthy ageing in Aboriginal communities. It will also investigate whether and how resilience related to social and cultural cohesion can protect well-being in Indigenous 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?


Ten siblings. One third live (or have passed away) with dementia.

The scourge of dementia runs deep in Lorna Clement's family. Of the eleven children her dear parents raised, four live (or have passed away) with complications of the disease. Her mother also died of Alzheimer's disease, bringing the family total to five. This is the mystery of dementia - One family, with two very different ageing outcomes. You will have read that lifestyle is an important factor in reducing the risk of dementia. We also know diet is a key factor, and an aspect that Dr Ruth Peter's is exploring at NeuRA. Along with leading teams delivering high profile evidence synthesis work in the area of dementia risk reduction, Dr Peters has a particular interest in hypertension (that is, high blood pressure) and in the treatment of hypertension in older adults. “We have known for a while that treating high blood pressure reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, but it is becoming clearer that controlling blood pressure may also help to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Now we need to know what the best blood pressure is to protect brain health.” You are invited to read more about Lorna's story and Dr Peter's work, by clicking 'Read the full story' below. Please support dementia research at NeuRA Will you consider a gift today to help Dr Peter's unlock the secrets of healthy ageing and reduce the risk of dementia? Research into ageing and dementia at NeuRA will arm doctors and other medical professionals with the tools they need to help prevent dementia in our communities. Thank you for your support.