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In Singapore, an estimated one in 10 people aged 60 and above has dementia; and half of those aged 85 and older have it. The number of people with dementia in Singapore is expected to more than double to 103,000 by 2030.

In his interview with The Straits Times, Professor Kua Ee Heok from NUS Medicine’s Department of Psychological Medicine shares three key points for good mental well-being and ageing well.

The first is education where one learns the health issues and risk factors affecting the elderly, such as diabetes and hypertension. The second is the ability to stay calm and use different strategies for mindfulness, such as meditating to deal with tension and anxiety. Lastly, mental stimulation with the aid of the arts is useful, by employing music, drawing or other cultural and heritage pursuit, as a means to stave off mental decline.

“Art is reminiscence”, said Prof Kua. Art and music help trigger the hippocampus in the brain, where one’s memories are stored.

Additionally, Prof Kua explored non-drug alternatives for dealing with dementia, and found that family care was critical in lengthening the life expectancy of patients. After diagnosis, patients with dementia in Singapore under the care of family lived on for 12 to 16 years longer. This was a marked contrast to the average of five years in the West, where the elderly typically live in nursing homes.

Over the course of his lengthy career, Prof Kua has conducted various studies on the mental health of the elderly in Singapore and contributed to practical knowledge about the perils of mental deterioration.

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