Annual Scientific Conference on Ageing (ASCA) 2023 Highlights: 26 Aug 2023

The Annual Scientific Conference on Ageing (ASCA) 2023, with the theme of “Mental Well-being and Older Adults” was held at the Lifelong Learning Centre on 26 Aug 2023 with Ms Rahayu Mahzam, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health (MOH), as the Guest-of-Honour.

Co-organised by the Gerontological Society of Singapore, Yeo Boon Khim Mind Science Centre, and Presbyterian Community Services, the conference welcomed close to 200 attendees made up of researchers, practitioners, policy makers, caregivers, and students.


In her address, Ms Mahzam emphasised the urgency to prioritise and address mental well-being at all stages of life, including older adults who may be more vulnerable to the effects of isolation and change. Referring to the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021 – 2023), she also called out the four areas for action: (1) changing how we think, feel and act towards ageing; (2) ensuring that communities foster the abilities of older people; (3) delivering integrated care and primary health services for older people; and (4) providing access to long-term care for older people who need it.

She noted that local evidence has shown the importance of keeping seniors active and engaged for better cognitive health. Quoting the findings from Yeo Boon Khim Mind Science Centre’s Jurong Ageing Study, Ms Mahzam cited that the outcome of the Age Well Everyday (AWE) Programme was “highly encouraging, with a low 3% prevalence of dementia among the research subjects over a five-year period.” This is much lower than the prevalence of dementia in the general population which stands at 10%.

Following the speech, YBK MSC Management Board Member Emeritus Professor Kua Ee Heok officially opened Symposium I on Community Health and Intergeneration (CHI) study.

13th Henry Lim Lecture: Ageing and Mental Health – The CHI Study

Dr Rathi Mahendran started the session with her keynote lecture, presenting the overview and key findings of the CHI Study. With a multidisciplinary team of 12 esteemed co-investigators from various faculties and departments within NUS, the comprehensive collection of data from 996 individuals is currently undergoing meticulous analysis. Reported findings:
  • Three psychosocial and demographic variables had significant group differences:
    • (1) fewer years of education,
    • (2) less perceived social support, and
    • (3) higher depressive symptoms in the Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) group as compared to the Normal Ageing (NA) group.
  • Poor oral health in the MCI group as comparted to the NA group. Those in the MCI group had higher extent and severity of periodontal disease, bleeding gums, increased inflammation. More than 10% out of MCI cases who were examined had periodontal disease.
  • Those with MCI talked less and produced fewer words than cognitively intact subjects. Speech rates were lower in both subtypes of MCI, but only the lower noun rate reached significance in aMCI compared to controls.
  • Poorer physical function was associated depressive and anxiety symptoms.
  • Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) was a significant predictor of Amnestic MCI (p = .000) over Normal Ageing. The correlation between GDS (odds ratio (OR) = 1.344, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.152–1.567] and Amnestic MCI was positive, people scoring higher on GDS were more likely to be Amnestic MCI than Normal Ageing.

For more information on the CHI study, please click here.


Smell Impairment and Cognitive Decline

Professor Wang De Yun, a Research Professor (Tenure) and Director of Research at the Department of Otolaryngology, National University of Singapore, presented on the correlation between olfactory dysfunction and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) among older adults residing in the community. Specifically, it was highlighted that olfactory identification impairment is commonly observed as a comorbidity in older adults with amnestic MCI, suggesting its potential as an early marker for neurocognitive disorders. A smell test may be used as a screening tool, enabling early detection of olfactory impairment in the heterogeneous syndromes of MCI. Prof Wang encouraged clinicians and researchers to leverage a locally developed smell test to screen patients or research participants, facilitating the timely initiation of appropriate health interventions or inclusion in clinical trials. This approach holds promise for enhancing early detection and intervention strategies.

Find out more here.


Impact of comprehensive dietary counselling on dietary quality, mental health and cardiometabolic health in Singapore older adults

Dr Kim Jung Eun, Assistant Professor at the Department of Food Science & Technology, National University of Singapore, presented the progress of her ongoing study on the impact of dietary counselling for Singapore older adults. She mentioned that age-related factors such as increased oxidative stress, inflammation, and myocardial deterioration, as well as age-related behavioural changes such as poor nutritional choices, sedentary lifestyle, and poor sleeping cycle are linked to the development of cardiometabolic disease (CMD) and mental health disorder. Previous studies have also pointed at poor nutrition status as a risk factor. Hence, an improvement in dietary quality is a viable way to improve CMD and mental health risk.

Dr Kim’s research team conducted a randomized controlled trial to assess the impact of dietary counselling on dietary quality, mental health, and cardiometabolic health in Singapore older adults. Subjects in the intervention group (n = 20, all women) received a high intensity dietary counselling for 12 weeks. Preliminary findings showed improvements in dietary quality, particularly an increase in whole grain intake. This was accompanied with a significant decline in anxiety status in the intervention group as compared to the control group. This project shows promising outcomes of comprehensive dietary counselling and a nutritional strategy to improve dietary quality and mental health outcomes in Singapore older women.

Dr Kim and her research team is currently writing the manuscript and preparing for publication. To always be in the loop with Mind Science Centre’s latest research, join our mailing list here.

Narrative Reminiscence intervention (NRi) for Intergenerational Family Bonding

A/Prof Wilson Tam is an Associate Professor and the Director of Research at Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies, NUS. At the symposium, he presented his research on NRi for Intergenerational Family Bonding which aims to examine if the intervention is feasible to implement in the local context to improve the psychological outcomes of older adults.

A/Prof Tam explained that reminiscence-based intervention is a recall of past experiences to enhance positive feelings, coping mechanism, and adaptation to ageing in older adults. It typically involves an interviewer asking the subject some questions about historical items, old photographs, videos and/or songs to evoke past memories and stimulate conversations.

Image credits: Write Editions

For the pilot RCT, the team recruited older adults aged 60 or above. The team then recruited and trained their children/grandchildren, as well as some NUS Students, to act as the interviewer. Following the 6 one-on-one sessions of NRi, the research team found that subjects enjoyed the intervention and would recommend NRi to others. Furthermore, the intervention was found to positively impact intergenerational relationship, family cohesion, quality of life, subjective wellbeing, and loneliness.

The findings from this pilot was published as a chapter in a book titled “Ageing with Dignity”.

“Where-there-is-no-psychiatrist Integrated Personal Therapy” Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Feasibility Randomized Controlled Trial

A/Prof Shefaly Shorey (Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies, NUS) conducted a pilot RCT study to examine to examine the preliminary efficacy, perceptions, and acceptability of a trained volunteer-led community-based intervention to support community-dwelling older adults.

The intervention was found to be feasible as it was delivered as planned and attendance rates across the session were high. A/Prof Shorey further shared that the older adults experienced improved moods and decreased negative feelings. The subjects also shared that they have a more positive outlook in life and overall, felt that they have “become a better person.” All the older adults also expressed satisfaction with the intervention and felt that it was “worth their time”. For more details on this study, read the published paper here.

Considering the feasibility, positive perceptions and acceptability towards the intervention, A/Prof Shorey is working to extend the study and continue to provide this intervention through online platforms. 

More information coming soon!


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