The University of Arizona

UA to Host Second Annual Conference on Promoting Successful Aging and Brain Health

By Lisa Romero, BIO5 Institute | January 17, 2014

Reducing the risk for Alzheimer's disease through lifestyle, education and new treatments is at the focus of this year's conference, which will be held Feb. 21.

In an effort to flip perceptions about aging from fear to empowerment, the University of Arizona is hosting the second annual Conference on Successful Aging, a cross-disciplinary, public conference on brain health featuring world-renowned speakers and the latest information on the science of successful aging.

Open to the community, this year’s conference will focus on reducing risk for Alzheimer’s disease, a disorder of aging that affects more than one in eight adults over the age of 65. Alzheimer’s disease – the most common form of dementia – causes profound changes in a person’s memory, behavior and ability to think clearly. 

Experts will discuss lifestyle factors that may decrease risk for developing this disorder, as well as the latest information on the causes, symptoms and promising new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. Topics will include the benefits of social engagement for maintaining cognitive health, decreasing risk for Alzheimer’s disease through diet and nutrition, preventing falls and head injuries that increase risk for cognitive decline, and managing the stress of caregiving.

The event is spearheaded by the UA Department of Psychology and the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, and is co-sponsored by the UA's BIO5 Institute and Tucson Medical Center. The BIO5 Institute mobilizes top researchers in agriculture, engineering, medicine, pharmacy and science to find creative solutions to humanity’s most pressing health and environmental challenges.

The Conference on Successful Aging is the brainchild of two UA researchers, Lee Ryan, associate professor of psychology and neurology, and Gene Alexander, professor of psychology, who are co-directors of the event. In their research, Ryan and Alexander use state-of-the-art neuroimaging methods to understand the normally aging brain, the changes that lead to age-related memory problems, and ways to prevent or treat age-related memory impairments.

“This event will bring together speakers with research expertise from across the UA campus and the state who are working to understand why some individuals are able to maintain their cognitive functions throughout their lifetime, while others experience cognitive impairments and brain disorders, like Alzheimer’s disease, that interfere with the quality of daily life,” Alexander said.

“By understanding the brain and behavioral changes associated with aging and Alzheimer’s disease, it will be possible to develop research directions that will lead to practical recommendations for pharmacological and lifestyle interventions that may significantly reduce the risk of developing this disorder.”

Ryan added, “We want to find ways to help the community sift through the huge amount of information available now on the Web and in the popular press regarding aging and preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Much of that information has no scientific basis. However, there is important new research that can guide us to make better lifestyle choices in our daily lives to maintain optimal brain health as we age. It’s an exciting time for scientists in the field, and we want to share our excitement with the community.”

“Our goal is to provide practical and useful information on ways to promote successful aging to the community and health-care workers who are concerned about maintaining and promoting a healthy brain as we age,” Alexander said.