19 Nov 2019
This article was originally published in Montefiore LIFE, Rosh Hashana 2019.
Discover more about the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) UNSW's Sydney Centenarian Study, which includes many Montefiore residents.
Every year, the likelihood of living to 100 and beyond increases. The possibility of achieving this exceptional age is on the one hand exciting – after all, throughout history, humankind has been intrigued by the fountain of youth concept. However, longevity can come with significant challenges.
The Sydney Centenarian Study led by the UNSW Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) aims to determine which factors contribute to successful ageing. This Study collects information from volunteer research participants aged 95 and over to help researchers discover the secrets to a long life and, importantly, maintaining health at older ages.
Study Coordinator Dr Catherine Browning says we know that genes play a significant role in longevity, but lifestyle and environmental factors can influence the way they behave.
To anyone considering taking part in the Sydney Centenarian Study, 96-year-old Peter says: "Just do it!"
“The Study is interested in shedding light on these lifestyle factors so we can take charge of the way our bodies and brains age,” she explains.
To date, over 400 participants have been involved in this study, including many Montefiore residents such as Peter Singleton.
“When I’m asked to do something that I think may help then I’m always happy to be involved,” says the 96-year-old, who has enjoyed taking part in the study. Peter has lived at Woollahra for three years and remains active through long walks, and regular exercise sessions at Randwick.
"We develop a strong rapport over time,” says Dr Browning, “If possible, we like to visit our participants every six months, gaining insight into their health and memory as they approach 100 years and beyond.”
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the project for CHeBA researchers, she adds, is meeting extraordinary people like Peter and learning about their interesting lives. “We hear about their history, their children and grandchildren, and look forward to their 100th birthday celebrations when they reach that milestone.”
Each participant in CHeBA’s Sydney Centenarian Study is invited to take part in an interview in their home, to answer questions about their history, health, diet, memory and lifestyle. A brief physical examination includes measurements of height, weight and blood pressure.
“It doesn’t matter if participants have memory, hearing, visual, or mobility difficulties – we can accommodate individual needs, says Dr Browning. "By seeing participants with a wide range of abilities, we get a more accurate picture of what it means to be a Sydney Centenarian.”
And to all the people considering joining the study? Peter Singleton says: “Just do it!”