New Zealand dementia rates on the rise

New Zealand dementia rates on the rise

The number of people with dementia in New Zealand has risen by 30 percent in six years, and by 2050 it is projected it will reach 150,000.

But researchers are fighting back, and in Auckland they have opened the first of three research clinics.

Bill Atkinson began to get worried when he got to 84 and started to forget a few things.

"For instance, going from my dining room to the study, by the time I arrived in the study I'd forgotten what I was going there for," he says.

He feared he was getting dementia.

"I was, I must confess I was. I didn't want it to go that way, because I've seen other people with it."

Up to 15 percent of patients with mild memory loss go on to develop dementia.

He's one of the patients taking part in a study at a new dementia prevention research clinic.

Dementia cases in New Zealand have risen more than 30 percent in just six years. By 2050, it's estimated nearly 150,000 Kiwis will have dementia.

"Our goal is to reduce the number of people with dementia because it's going to create a good quality of life," says Dr Phil Wood from the Dementia Prevention Research Clinic.

They're recruiting people with MCI -- Mild Cognitive Impairment -- for a longitudinal study.

"It's all about trying to find what works," says Dr Wood. "It might a pharmaceutical; it might be a lifestyle thing. It's probably a mixture of both."

Through research and novel treatments, they hope to slow the onset and progression of dementia by five years. If they can do that, it will cut prevalence in New Zealand by 50 percent.

"I hope that what I'm doing here now is helping other people, so that whatever happens in the future I can be satisfied that I did help just a little," says Mr Atkinson.

Two more clinics are due to open in Christchurch and Dunedin later this year.