In a bid to address the escalating number of people being diagnosed with dementia, three senior executives have pooled their skills and resources to develop Drive Out Dementia, an elite one day event where motoring enthusiasts have the opportunity to test their luxury vehicles on a purpose-built private road in the name of dementia research.
The partnership consists of Richard Grellman AM, Chairman of IPH Limited and AMP Foundation, Phil Cave AM, Chairman of Anchorage Capital and McLaren’s former Australian Brand Ambassador and founder of Longroup, Luke O’Neill.
“This collaboration is about embracing corporate social responsibility,” said Mr Grellman, who is Spokesman for The Dementia Momentum initiative at the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), UNSW.
“Together our goal is to bring together an executive network and provide an opportunity for the corporate sector to invest firmly in social change,” he said.
Mr Grellman, whose wife Suellen has advanced young onset Alzheimer’s disease and was diagnosed at just 61 years of age, said the corporate contributions would go to advancing large-scale, “big data” research into age-related brain disorders.
There are currently more than 413,000 Australians with dementia with the projection that by 2056 this figure will reach a million, with more than 650 new cases being diagnosed every day. The current economic cost of dementia worldwide is $818 billion annually and, in Australia alone the increase in costs will go from an estimated $14 billion currently to nearly $37 billion by the middle of the century.
With the possibility of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias cumulatively affecting more than three million Australians by 2050, an increased investment in research is the only hope we have for the development of medical interventions to delay, halt or reverse the diseases that lead to dementia.
Phil Cave has previously demonstrated his commitment to supporting research when he and wife Judy Harris became founding members of The Dementia Momentum, donating $100,000 to the initiative.
“The social and economic burden of this disease is unmistakable,” said Mr Cave.
“The coupling of an ageing workforce and a rapid increase in dementia cases necessitates corporate social responsibility alongside government research funding,” he said.
CHeBA, a world-leader in centenarian studies and research into the ageing brain launched The Dementia Momentum in March 2015. The initiative looks at combining and harmonising data from around the world to determine which modifiable risk factors for dementia are universal and which are specific to particular demographics. The outcomes of this research will assist greatly in informing and creating policy change but require significant funding to establish more robust findings.
The Centre, directed by Professor Perminder Sachdev and Professor Henry Brodaty - both internationally acclaimed for their research into age-related cognitive disorders - are encouraged by the alliance with Mr Grellman, Mr Cave and Mr O’Neill.
Professor Sachdev explained that with the significant developments in neuroscience over the past decade, there is considerable hope that we may be in a position to prevent and treat age-related disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
“However, we need much more significant investment in research to expedite results,” he said.
“We also need more research across the full spectrum of the disease beyond drug treatments, to include prevention strategies in early and mid-life to reduce modifiable risk factors associated with dementia, as well as effective end-of-life care for patients and their families.”
The inaugural Drive Out Dementia will take place today, 27 October. The event will be coordinated by Mr O’Neill who has 17 years’ experience facilitating luxury and performance vehicle launches and elite corporate driving events.
“Our hope is that the corporate participants recognise the value of funding research into prevention to change the future of dementia and benefit all Australians,” said Mr Grellman.
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