Tests raise hope for Alzheimer's
Elderly people given cognitive training in a test by the Jockey Club Centre for Positive Ageing performed much better in reasoning and memory than those who were not given training.
In the test, the first of its kind in Hong Kong, half of a group of 223 elderly Chinese who had normal cognitive abilities were trained over a 12-week programme while the remainder, a control group, did not.
Assessments on abilities such as reasoning, memory and attention were conducted immediately after the programme, and again nine months later.
Compared with the control group, the participants in the test group performed much better, said the director of the centre, Dr Timothy Kwok Chi-yui.
One of the participants from the test group, 85-year-old Fung Hoi-chung, said: 'Now I feel like I'm more knowledgable. I can share with my friends who live alone some memory skills to keep their mind active.'
The test group was given simple memory tasks and instructed to adopt different memory techniques, such as making use of association and connection. For example, they had to bear in mind associations such as head for glasses and pocket for wallet and later recall them one by one.
The training could also be applied to their daily lives as a way to take care of personal belongings.
About 10 per cent of Hong Kong people over 60 are diagnosed with dementia - the commonly used name for Alzheimer's disease.
Dr Jean Woo, chair professor of Chinese University's Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, said this amounted to 90,000 people now with the number rising to 230,000 by 2036 - accounting for more than 25 per cent.
Kwok said elderly people who were less educated were at a higher risk of dementia. They tended to lose their short-term memories more easily than those who had better reasoning skills.
The 2006 population census shows that 75 per cent of the entire older population in the city received only primary education or below.
The elderly should stay engaged in social activities, take more exercise and learn new things as a way to prevent dementia, Kwok said.
The proportion of elderly people who received only primary education or below