Sydney Centenarian Study

CHeBA Research Project: Sydney Centenarian Study
The Sydney Centenarian Study is a longitudinal project that explores the genetic and environmental determinants of extreme longevity. The study examines the cognition, health, care needs, brain structure and genetics of Australia’s oldest old.

Aims

The age composition of Australia’s population is projected to change considerably over the coming decades with elderly Australians the fastest growing proportion of the population. This is particularly true of centenarians, the exceptional group of individuals who reach the age of 100. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in June 2015 there were 29,612 individuals in Australia aged 95-99 years old and 4,279 who were aged 100 or more. It is estimated that there will be 12,000 centenarians in Australia by 2020 and 50,000 by 2050. The number of centenarians worldwide is estimated to increase 15-fold to 2.2 million by 2050.

Despite the rapid ageing of our population there have been only a few population-based studies of centenarians and near-centenarians internationally, and none in Australia. The study of exceptionally long lived individuals will shed light on the determinants of successful aging, both environmental and genetic. It will also help us understand the health care requirements of this group and enable us to plan accordingly.

The specific aims of the Sydney Centenarian Study (SCS) are:

  • To examine the cognitive profile of exceptionally old individuals.
  • To establish tools for the valid assessment of cognitive function in the oldest old.
  • To relate cognition in this age group to brain imaging parameters.
  • To examine the current health, medical history, lifestyle and genetics of the exceptionally old.
  • To examine the health care needs and level of functional independence among the very old.
  • To determine the major genetic and environmental factors that influence longevity.

Method

Sydney residents aged 95 and above are invited to participate in the study. Participants are interviewed at baseline, 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, and at every subsequent 12 month interval. Data collected includes: medical history, family medical history, cognition, medications, mental health, subjective memory complaints, falls history, diet, physical activity, social integration and social cognition.

An informant, someone who knows the participant well, is invited to provide information about the participants cognition, health, self-care needs and degree of functional independence.

Participants are invited to provide a blood sample for genetics, epigenetics and clinical chemistry analysis. Participants are also invited to undergo brain imaging (MRI) and enrol in our brain donation program.

Progress

To date we have included 410 participants aged 95 and above from the East, Inner West and Inner South of Sydney. 71% of the participants are female, mean age at baseline was 97.4 years, age range at baseline was 95.02-106.3 years. 26% of participants are from a non-English speaking background. 39% of participants were living in aged care with 60% of those in aged care living in high-care accommodation. 35% of participants met criteria for dementia, although only 23% of male participants.

The majority of participants are mobile with 64% able to walk at least a short distance. 23% require assistance with eating and/or special preparation of food. 42% require some level of assistance with getting dressed and 47% with grooming. 38% required assistance with bathing. Prevalence of psychological distress was consistent with the general population and satisfaction with life was high.

64% of participants have provided a blood sample for our genetics work. We are examining polygenic risk scores, gene expression including non-coding RNA, DNA methylation, and whole genome sequencing.

10% of participants have undergone structural brain imaging (MRI). SCS participants, the ‘oldest old’, have been compared to ‘younger old’. The greatest loss of brain volume at advanced age was in the medial temporal lobe (including the hippocampus) and parietal and occipital cortices, indicating that the “tempero-posterior” regions of the brain are particularly vulnerable to exceptional longevity. White matter hyperintensities (WMH) were found in almost all SCS participants. The relationship of age with WMHs was examined and found to be stronger at older age, suggesting that WMH accumulation accelerates with advancing age.

The SCS is a member of the International Centenarian Consortium of Dementia (ICC-Dementia), an international collaboration of eighteen similar studies across Asia, the Americas and Europe. The group seeks to harmonise data from these studies across diverse ethno-racial and sociocultural groups to describe the cognitive, functional and psychological profiles of centenarians and near-centenarians.

To request SCS data please contact the Study Coordinator (Adam Theobald) on (02) 9385 0433 or via email a.theobald@unsw.edu.au.

Project Members

Newsletter

Sydney Centenarian Study Newsletter, January 2018 (2.3mb, PDF)

Publications

For all CHeBA publications, see Publications.

Methodology Paper

Sachdev PS, Levitan C, Crawford JD, Sidhu M, Slavin M, Richmond R, Kochan N, Brodaty H, Wen W, Kang K, Mather K; Sydney Centenarian Study Team. The Sydney Centenarian Study: methodology and profile of centenarians and near-centenarians. Int Psychogeriatric 2013; 25(6): 993-1005, doi.org/10.1017/S1041610213000197.

Latest Papers

Authors Title Journal
Muenchhoff J, Song F, Poljak A, Crawford JD, Mather KA, Kochan NA, Yang Z, Trollor JN, Reppermund S, Maston K, Theobald A, Kirchner-Adelhardt S, Kwok JB, Richmond RL, McEvoy M, Attia J, Schofield PW, Brodaty H, Sachdev PS. Plasma apolipoproteins and physical and cognitive health in very old individuals. Neurobiol Aging 2017; 55: 49-60, doi.org/10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2017.02.017
Armstrong NJ, Mather KA, Thalamuthu A, Wright MJ, Trollor JN, Ames D, Brodaty H, Schofield PR, Sachdev PS, Kwok JB. Aging, exceptional longevity and comparisons of the Hannum and Horvath epigenetic clocks. Epigenomics 2017; 9(5): 689-700. doi.org/10.2217/epi-2016-0179
Theobald A; Daly C; Yang Z; Mather KA; Muenchhoff J; Crawford J; Sachdev PS Sydney Centenarian Study. Pachana NA (ed.), Encyclopedia of Geropsychology, Springer, Singapore, 2017, pp. 2365 – 2372. dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-981-287-082-7_140