The Disconnected Mind

Older lady with doctor

How we think is who we are.

Our mind - how we think - is at the core of our being. It gives us our identity; it’s responsible for the way we relate to the world around us. So it’s not surprising that losing our thinking skills as we age - known as cognitive impairment - is one of our greatest fears as we age.

Loss of cognitive abilities is the single biggest reason why older people lose their independence and need 24 hour care.  Sadly, over 1 million of us over the age of 65 in the UK have some degree of cognitive impairment and the number is expected to grow. Society will be increasingly unable to bear the huge scale of the cost of care, which is set to top £16 billion by 2031. We want to turn the tide of this devastating condition.

Yet it need not be a foregone conclusion that we have to lose our cognitive abilities as we age.

That’s why Age UK supports The Disconnected Mind, a once-in-a-lifetime project led by Professor Ian Deary at the University of Edinburgh, to discover why and how our thinking skills change with age and what we can do to minimize these changes in ageing.

A window of opportunity

In June 1947, every 11 year old school child in Scotland - over 70,000 of them - took the Scottish Mental Survey, a test that measured their cognitive abilities in a consistent and replicable way. No other country anywhere in the world has tested an entire nation in this way since.

Professor Deary has access to the results of these tests and 1,000 of the children – now adults in their 70’s – are helping him in his project. By taking the same test again at age 70, 73 and 76 and contributing exhaustive information about their lifestyle, health, genetics and biology, they are allowing him to understand cognitive ageing.  

Because the 1947 test results are unique and the volunteers are willing to go through repeated testing, this project is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to understand how cognitive ability changes throughout life and during ageing itself.

As a result, we will know what we can do ourselves to protect our thinking skills as we age and what education and health care professionals need to do to provide the best support for healthy cognitive ageing and for everyone in later life struggling to cope with the effects of cognitive decline.

Support The Disconnected Mind 

This project is an unparalleled opportunity. It’s tackling one of the biggest health challenges that we face this century. Help us find the solutions.

To make a donation to The Disconnected Mind, call now on
0800 169 87 87

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Call Age UK:
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