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Ageing

Analysis and Comment (49)

The risk of Alzheimer’s increases with age. The risk of Alzheimer’s increases with age. Shutterstock

Explainer: what is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease causes progressive damage to the brain, resulting in problems with memory, cognition, social engagement, and, ultimately, a person’s ability to care for themselves. Alzheimer’s is the…
Those days need not remain in photographs. Those days need not remain in photographs. carlos-smith

Genetic switch controls body’s tissue repair system

It is a sad fact that old age brings diseases. Many may not be life-threatening, but they make life less fun. One such condition is sarcopenia, which causes the loss of muscle mass and strength, and it…
Double trouble. Double trouble. Ellectric

Hidden male carers find it harder to reach out

Given conventional ideas of male roles, we often tend to imagine carers as being women. But more men take on this “unpaid work” than you might think, and particularly in older groups. Research we’ve carried…
Getting older and slower may just be the result of more experience than younger folk. Getting older and slower may just be the result of more experience than younger folk. Flickr/Neil. Moralee

The myth of age-related cognitive decline

The tide is changing in our understanding of old age. For a long time, behavioural scientists have thought that old age is associated with cognitive decline such as memory problems, and difficulties in…
Good old Harriet, gone but not forgotten. Good old Harriet, gone but not forgotten. Eric K Veland

Why do humans deteriorate with age? It’s a biological puzzle

Some species live for a very long time, others more fleeting. Bristlecone pines have remarkable life spans of around 5,000 years and in the animal kingdom, creatures like elephants, whales and tortoises…
They’ve got their own issues. They’ve got their own issues. Chicago Man

Getting older doesn’t make you more conservative

Seventy years ago Swedish sociologist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Alva Myrdal pointed out in Nation and Family the generational bias inherent in democratic political systems: young voters will be old…
Old is the new young, in tennis anyway: at 35 years old, Germany’s Tommy Haas is still winning tournaments. Old is the new young, in tennis anyway: at 35 years old, Germany’s Tommy Haas is still winning tournaments. EPA/Marc Mueller

You’ll never see another teenage tennis champ – here’s why

Lleyton Hewitt won the Brisbane International last weekend at the age of 32. Roger Federer and David Ferrer, two of the world’s top ten players, are over 30. And 35-year-old crowd favourite Tommy Haas…
Old people aren’t museum relics. Old people aren’t museum relics. Mr Push

Hard Evidence: can we afford an ageing population?

Stories about “population ageing” often have a number of things in common – it is bad, it is new, and it will overwhelm us all. The major fear is a burden of cost and caring that more older people will…
Increased longevity often comes with multiple health conditions and disability. Increased longevity often comes with multiple health conditions and disability. Image from shutterstock.com

Australian women outlive men then struggle with disadvantage

Women live longer and healthier lives than men but face lower rates of pay, are less likely to participate in paid work and accumulate less superannuation to retire on, which leads to disadvantage later…
One day, if you’re lucky. One day, if you’re lucky. Niall Kennedy

Despite risk, kids can be space flight pioneers

Humanity is standing on the cusp of a huge technological leap. Commercial space flight could place something that has been the preserve of a chosen few (around 500 people) who’ve completed years of gruelling…
Antioxidants are often portrayed as the good forces that fight evil free radicals. Antioxidants are often portrayed as the good forces that fight evil free radicals. Markus Lütkemeyer

Health Check: the untrue story of antioxidants vs free radicals

Antioxidants are a commonly promoted feature of health foods and supplements. They’re portrayed as the good forces that fight free radicals – nasty molecules causing damage thought to hasten ageing and…
He’s in crisis, but we don’t know why. He’s in crisis, but we don’t know why. Ubi Desperare Nescio

Hard evidence: is the midlife crisis real?

Hard Evidence is a series of articles that looks at some of the trickiest public policy questions we face. Academic experts delve into available research evidence to provide informed analysis you won’t…
Is there a better way to face the challenges of the future? Is there a better way to face the challenges of the future? Clown image from www.shutterstock.com

Forget the Sideshow: Australia needs better decision-making for a better future

As a nation we pay too much attention to the sensational and the short-term. Whether it’s a social media spat, a gaffe in question time, or a political interview that runs off the rails – our national…
  1. Elegans alive (left) and dead (right).
  1. Elegans alive (left) and dead (right).
Wellcome Trust

The worm that died in a blaze of blue glory

Never has “feeling blue” carried such a sense of finality. A new study has revealed the simple worm (Caenorhabditis elegans) meets its death in a flash of azure. And, according to researchers, the blue…
Does my brain look small in this? Scans can be used to detect brain shrinkage. Does my brain look small in this? Scans can be used to detect brain shrinkage. Flickr/bucaorg

Brain scan library will help us understand normal ageing

As many as 500 brain scans are performed in Scotland every week. These scans are mostly used to diagnose - or rule out - serious diseases like strokes and tumours, but this is not their only function…
I’m 110 and still going strong. I’m 110 and still going strong. Nuno Cruz

Lust for life: breaking the 120-year barrier in human ageing

In rich countries, more than 80% of the population today will survive past the age of 70. About 150 years ago, only 20% did. In all this while, though, only one person lived beyond the age of 120. This…
Worrying about ageing is a waste of your time. Worrying about ageing is a waste of your time. Faith K Lefever

If you want to live longer, do nothing

I want to live longer and help others do the same. I assumed the most effective way to do that is by understanding the science of ageing and then engineering solutions to extend human lifespan. That is…
Social isolation in old age is linked to an increased risk of early death, the study found. Social isolation in old age is linked to an increased risk of early death, the study found. EPA/DENNIS SABANGAN

Social isolation trumps loneliness as early death indicator in old age

Social isolation in old age significantly increases the risk of an early death and outstrips loneliness as a factor associated with mortality, a UK study has found. The new findings, published in the journal…
Ageing couple Gorges and Ann Laurant (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) negotiate illness and death in Amour. Ageing couple Gorges and Ann Laurant (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) negotiate illness and death in Amour. EPA Claudio Onorati

The thorny issue of home care in Michael Haneke’s Amour

During our lifetime, we face a series of developmental tasks that are universal to the human condition. The last of these stages comes in our final years, when we face our mortality, reflect back upon…
You may achieve your pigmentary potential a little ahead of schedule, but you can’t go grey overnight. You may achieve your pigmentary potential a little ahead of schedule, but you can’t go grey overnight. Image from shutterstock.com

Monday’s medical myth: stress can turn hair grey overnight

The belief that nervous shock can cause you to go grey overnight (medically termed canities subita) is one of those tales which could nearly be true. There are certainly cases in medical literature of…
Pope Benedict XVI, who recently announced that he will resign from the papacy this month. Pope Benedict XVI, who recently announced that he will resign from the papacy this month. AAP/Claudio Peri

Pope’s resignation is a recognition of human frailty in an ageing world

Pope Benedict XVI announced his historic decision to step aside as Pope yesterday. This is the first time in 600 years a Pope has resigned. And in 1415 when Gregory XII resigned, he did so not to retire…
Depression isn’t an inevitable part of ageing. Depression isn’t an inevitable part of ageing. Elderly man image from Shutterstock.com

Why it’s time to properly diagnose and treat depression in aged care

As the baby boomers approach older age, the number of Australians aged over 65 is projected to rise from around 14% to 24% by 2056. Given that not even a massive influx of immigrants would reverse this…
Health and transport authorities should focus on helping older drivers to drive safely for longer. Health and transport authorities should focus on helping older drivers to drive safely for longer. Older driver image from shutterstock.com

Getting older drivers off the road won’t solve safety problems

When an older driver has a crash with tragic consequences, there are calls for stricter licensing controls to detect “unfit” drivers and take their licences away, typically focusing on those aged 75 or…
An emphasis on longer working lives should be a policy aspiration, rather than an ideological straitjacket. An emphasis on longer working lives should be a policy aspiration, rather than an ideological straitjacket. Image from www.shutterstock.com

Active ageing is a risky labour market policy

Welcome to Shades of Grey, a series from The Conversation that examines the challenges posed by Australia’s ageing workforce. Today, Monash University’s Philip Taylor looks at the costs and benefits of…
Australia’s approach to pensions and super disadvantages women. Australia’s approach to pensions and super disadvantages women. HarryetN

Australian census: women are living longer, and on less

AUSTRALIA BY NUMBERS: The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released the first batch of its census data. We’ve asked some of the country’s top demographers and statisticians to crunch the numbers on…
The intensity of individual requirements for assistance will increase in the future. The intensity of individual requirements for assistance will increase in the future. Emiliano/Flickr

Australian census: big Australia or small, we’re getting older – and the elderly need help

AUSTRALIA BY NUMBERS: The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the first batch of its 2011 census data yesterday. We’ve asked some of the country’s top demographers and statisticians to crunch the…
Aboriginal elders will help lay the path for health-care innovation in Indigenous communities. Aboriginal elders will help lay the path for health-care innovation in Indigenous communities. aia web team

Indigenous ageing: walking backwards into the future

The notion of walking backwards into the future describes the value we can derive from remembering and understanding our past, in order to best prepare for a better tomorrow. We can’t do this without properly…
Those who continue to be physically and mentally active throughout their life seem to age more slowly. Those who continue to be physically and mentally active throughout their life seem to age more slowly. Garry Knight

Why we can’t live forever: understanding the mechanisms of ageing

Ageing is the sum of many processes acting in concert to produce the signs and symptoms we know as “getting old”. Of course, there’s no way to stop the ageing process, but a better understanding of the…
For baby boomers, 70 is the new 50. For baby boomers, 70 is the new 50. Dr Hemmert

Defining old age: Baby Boomers to rewrite the books

At the turn of the 20th century, life expectancy in Australia was just 55 years for men and 59 for women. Thanks to medical breakthroughs and technological advances, the average Australian woman can now…
We need to set the foundations now for a healthy future of aged care nursing. We need to set the foundations now for a healthy future of aged care nursing. KarleQuin

Who’ll care for us in old age? It’s time to get the nursing workforce into shape

Life expectancy in Australia is at an all-time high: pre-school-aged girls can expect to live to 84 years, around five years longer than their healthy brothers. By 2041, the 65-plus age group is expected…
Studies have shown older people can enthusiastically adopt new opportunities to stay in contact with younger generations. Studies have shown older people can enthusiastically adopt new opportunities to stay in contact with younger generations. lyzadanger/Flickr

Inclusion vital for a healthy ageing population

Over the past century life expectancy has increased dramatically and older citizens around the globe will soon outnumber children. By 2050, nearly one out of every four people will be older than 60 years…
China has the largest absolute number of older people globally, with 13% of the population aged 60 and over. China has the largest absolute number of older people globally, with 13% of the population aged 60 and over. EPA/Wu Hong

Healthy ageing, happy life: lessons from China

The demographic profile of the world is changing. Ageing is a global phenomenon, an unprecedented, pervasive, profound and an enduring process for humanity. The current and future burden and opportunities…
Nanas may contribute more than just hugs and kisses. Nanas may contribute more than just hugs and kisses. John McNab

What’s the link between caring grandmas and breast cancer?

A recent study shows that mutations in the “breast cancer genes” BRCA1 and BRCA2 – which increase the risks of breast and ovarian cancers among others – also increase fertility. This is an extraordinary…
Ageism is pervasive on our television screens. Ageism is pervasive on our television screens. TheBmag

Get real – there’s more to ageing than what you see on TV

Most of us have no direct experience of psychiatry or severe mental illness. So our attitudes and experiences are shaped by what we are exposed to: mass media portrayals. Reality rarely makes good drama…
One in five people over 80 are sexually active but not all protect themselves against STIs. One in five people over 80 are sexually active but not all protect themselves against STIs. Flickr/adwriter

A ripe old age: the joy of sex later in life (just don’t forget the condoms)

Why is it that when we combine the words “sex” and “older people” there’s a reaction of surprise, unease and awkwardness? Is it because we believe older people don’t have sex? Or don’t have sexual fantasies…
Chemicals are present in the brain a decade or so before symptoms occur. Chemicals are present in the brain a decade or so before symptoms occur. Rosie O Beirne

Alzheimer’s could be diagnosed and treated before symptoms occur

Dementia is among the largest cause of disability in Australians aged over 65 and affects memory, intellect, rationality, social skills and everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for…
Older people are finally being consulted about the type of care they need. Older people are finally being consulted about the type of care they need. EPA/Diego Azubel

Ask the elderly what they need, not the care industry

Australia’s population is ageing, presenting an economic challenge to look after the most vulnerable members of our society. The Productivity Commission released a report last month recommending a complete…
High intake of antioxidants won’t slow the ageing process and may increase your risk of some cancers. High intake of antioxidants won’t slow the ageing process and may increase your risk of some cancers. Dan Machold

Monday’s medical myth: a diet high in antioxidants slows the aging process

As Australians' life expectancy nudges past 80 years, it’s no surprise that we’re searching for ways to add youthfulness and vitality to our later years. It’s a nice idea that a good dose of blueberries…
Signs of ageing are seen as lending distinction to some while the rest of us scramble to retain our youth. Signs of ageing are seen as lending distinction to some while the rest of us scramble to retain our youth. AAP

George Clooney is the exception – the rest of us need Botox

While we celebrate certain celebrities who age gracefully like Dame Judy Dench, or exult the distinctiveness that ageing brings to particular male celebrities, such as George Clooney, the signs of ageing…
Broadband-enabled technologies can ensure a more comfortable ageing process. Broadband-enabled technologies can ensure a more comfortable ageing process. sparktography

If I had a blank cheque I’d … reform Australia’s aged care system

Welcome to If I had a blank cheque … a series in which leading researchers reveal what they could (and would) do in their discipline if money were no object. Today we hear from Dr Kate Cornick, Executive…
Mental stimulation can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Mental stimulation can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. nany mata/Flickr

Victims of our own success: why more of us are facing dementia

When we think of dementia, we tend to imagine it as a condition that goes hand in hand with old age. What’s not talked about is the fact the diseases that cause it have a long genesis. Alzheimer’s Australia…
Your grandparents' lifespan can offer some valuable clues. Your grandparents' lifespan can offer some valuable clues. joeduty/Flickr

Who wants to live forever?

It’s well known that humans are living longer than ever before, thanks partially to developments such as sanitation and modern medicine. But will it ever be possible for humans to live forever? The late…
Financial measures to address ageing promote inequality and weaken the budget. Financial measures to address ageing promote inequality and weaken the budget. Patrick Doheny/Flickr

The myth of the ageing ‘crisis’

So far there have been three Intergenerational Reports by Treasury examining the challenges of an ageing population which have consistently been used to justify new policies to address a potential ageing…
Sleeper: we’ll retire later even with a boost to fertility rates. Sleeper: we’ll retire later even with a boost to fertility rates. AAP

Why boosting immigration or fertility won’t fix our ageing population

Many public debates come down to facts – issues like “Whose costing of the Opposition’s spending plans was correct?” or “How many people died in Iraq?” Too often the media report a strident opinion from…

Research and News (5)

Hypertension may cause birth defects

High blood pressure in pregnancy may itself cause birth defects rather than a type of drug used to treat the condition in…

Research Briefs (14)

Defective gene linked to osteoporosis

Women with a particular faulty receptor lose 10 times more bone mass than women without it. The receptor for the energy molecule…

A clue to reversing ageing

A gene, which allows yeast cell to reset their age and double their lifespan, has been found by biologists at MIT. Human…