Activity key to preventing dementia

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 September, 2007, 12:00am

Few people can guess Sze Lok-wan's age. The 104-year-old's mental alertness and swift reactions belie her years.

And Ms Sze, who likes knitting, can still turn out a cushion cover or a pair of children's socks in one night.

Ms Sze attributes her longevity and good health - apart from problems with blood pressure - to an active lifestyle.

'I usually get up at 5am. After a walk in the park downstairs, I like to do some knitting or sewing, or mending clothes for neighbours. It keeps me from getting sleepy,' she said.

Ms Sze moved to Hong Kong from Zhejiang province with her son in the 1960s, following the death of her husband.

She used to work in a spinning mill on the mainland. Despite having four grandchildren and a 28-year-old great-grandson, she lives alone in a flat in Tai Wo Hau, Tsuen Wan.

Her favourite foods are rice, soup, fried peanuts and vegetables.

'I join in activities organised by the district elderly service centre at least once a week.

'I have a lot of friends there,' Ms Sze said.

The simple, yet active lifestyle that Ms Sze leads is one that medical experts recommend to prevent dementia, an increasingly common disorder among elderly people.

The Council of Social Service, CLP Power and more than 30 local elderly-concern groups launched a year-long programme for early prevention and delaying of dementia on World Alzheimer's Day yesterday.

The programme will raise money to provide early dementia assessment for 5,000 elderly people as well as follow-up mental training and treatment for those at high risk.

It is estimated that one in 10 Hongkongers aged 65 or older suffers from dementia.

Leong Che-hung, chairman of the Elderly Commission, predicted that a quarter of the city's population in that age group would fall victim to the disorder in two to three decades.

'Although dementia is an irreversible illness, patients are strongly recommended to keep up mental training and social activities, such as playing chess, learning to use computers or singing karaoke with friends, which help delay development of the disease,' he said.

Perils of ageing

As Hong Kong's population ages the number of people with dementia is expected to increase

The projected number of people with dementia by 2020 is 110,000