Recent comments regarding Alzheimer’s disease ‘ageist’, says dementia expert

Recent comments reported by the Sydney Morning Herald describing Alzheimer’s disease as a ‘normal part of ageing’ are inappropriate and wrong, according to an Australian expert who has spent his entire research career studying normal ageing, and disorders such as dementia.

“Comments suggesting that Alzheimer’s disease is a normal part of ageing over 85 years of age are incorrect and smack of ageism,” says Prof Tony Broe AM, a geriatrician who has spent 30 years researching the behavioural, cognitive and physical changes associated with ageing in healthy people and people with Alzheimer’s diseases and other dementias.

Prof Broe is referring to comments made by Dr David Spektor and reported by Adele Horin in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald today. The article states that Alzheimer’s disease is a ‘normal part of ageing’ and should only be viewed as a disease in people under the age of 85.

“Of crucial relevance here is that half of all Australians born this decade will surpass 85 years of age and average survival will reach 100 years later this century,” Prof Broe says.

“Fifty years ago some members of the medical community were making the same types of comments, but instead used the cut-off of 65 years as separating ‘pre-senile’ Alzheimer’s and Senile Dementia as more a part of ‘normal ageing’,” says Prof Broe.

“This is a complex issue with no clear answers. In my opinion it is unhelpful to present the idea that Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are a predetermined aspect of ageing.”

“Classical Alzheimer’s disease, with a rapid forgetting of recent events, is just as devastating for a fit and healthy 90 year old as it is for someone younger.”

“Medical research into Alzheimer’s disease is not going to, and should not, stop. I agree though, that more attention needs to be given to caring for people with dementia and the support systems available to them,” Prof Broe concluded.

If you would like more information or would like to interview Prof Broe contact Ben Bravery at the NeuRA Media Office on +61 406 599 569.

About Prof Tony Broe AM
  • Prof Broe is a Senior Principal Research Fellow at Neuroscience Research Australia; Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of New South Wales; and Scientific Director of the Ageing Research Centre at the Prince of Wales Hospital.
  • For 30 years Prof Broe has been researching the interactions between population ageing and the motor, cognitive and behavioural consequences of ageing.
  • Prof Broe led the well-known Sydney Older Persons Study from 1992-2003 that examined normal brain ageing, the dementias and movement disorders.
  • From 1985 to 2003 he had continuous NHMRC funding to carry out research in brain injury, neuroepidemiology, brain ageing, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and vascular brain disorders and has published extensively in all of these areas.