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We all want to grow old gracefully, but how can science help us maintain our wellbeing and health as we get older?

The School of Biomedical Sciences at Ulster University’s Coleraine campus, in conjunction with The Riverside Theatre and Causeway U3A, have teamed up to celebrate and promote Healthy Ageing in the community as part of this year’s Northern Ireland Science Festival.

In a series of virtual events, Ulster University scientists will explain how good nutrition, active learning, health awareness and exercise can help both body and mind as we age. Attendees will learn about important research studies within the School, with the opportunity to actively contribute as citizens to Ulster University projects.

Ulster University became the first Age Friendly University in Northern Ireland in 2019. As part of this international group of higher education institutions Ulster is dedicated to addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by a rapidly ageing population. The University is committed to widening access to higher education by enhancing the lives of older members of the local community through innovative educational programmes, civic engagement and research.

Dr Declan McKenna, the lead organiser of the Healthy Ageing series, commented:

“The NI Science Festival is a perfect platform for scientists at the University to tell people about the work we do here. This year, we decided on a theme of Healthy Ageing, explaining how science can help us maintain our wellbeing and health as we get older. Our expert speakers will cover a variety of topics in an entertaining, accessible format and there’s also a chance for people to find out how they can become involved in our research studies themselves. Everyone is welcome to attend, regardless of age!”

Venie Martin, Chair of Causeway U3A said:

“Causeway u3a members are excited to see such a varied programme for the NI Science festival. We will enjoy the entire programme, but the healthy ageing section looks particularly interesting. We have strong links with UU at Coleraine and enjoy the use of their facilities and expertise.”

Healthy Ageing Events

To Pee or Not To Pee

Friday 19 February, 10:30 am - 11:30 am
Suitability: 18+

As men get older, urinary problems can be a potential indicator of developing prostate cancer, which can be worrying for many men and their families. Thankfully, remarkable advances in our understanding of this disease means early detection and successful treatment of prostate cancer is now possible. In this informative presentation, cancer researcher Declan McKenna explores the history of prostate cancer, explaining how scientists found out what causes it and how we have used that knowledge to dramatically improve survival rates. This will be an entertaining look at a serious subject which shows how science is helping win the fight against prostate cancer.

The Nuts & Bolts of Nutrition and Health

Monday 22 February, 10:30 am - 11:30 am
Suitability: 18+

Let’s take it back to the basics! Confused by all the conflicting nutrition information? Can food really be thy medicine? World-leading researchers from the Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food and Health (NICHE) at Ulster University’s Coleraine campus will help you to learn how foods can help to promote better health in older age, debunking common myths along the way. Join our interactive session to discover practical tips and simple changes that you can adopt to help maintain a healthy body and mind as we grow older.

Stem Cells for Healthy Ageing

Tuesday 23 February, 10:30 am - 11:30 am
Suitability: 18+

Ageing is a complex yet natural process. Over time, the cells of our bodies age as we do and can die or become damaged, meaning various disease can develop. Stem cells have the unique ability to grow into any cell type within the body and therefore offer huge potential to slow down or treat age-related diseases.

Join Genomic Medicine researcher, Dr Diane Lees-Murdock, to learn how scientists are using stem cells to help treat age-related conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and vision loss, as well as finding out how they could be employed for further health benefits in the future.

Age Related Macular Degeneration

Wednesday 24 February, 10:30 am - 11:30 am
Suitability: 18+

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in adults in the UK and Ireland. It is inextricably linked to ageing and leads to a painless loss of vision that can affect daily tasks such as reading, driving and recognising faces. Recent years has seen much progress in developing improved methods to detect, monitor and treat the condition. In this informative session researchers from the Centre for Optometry & Vision Science at Ulster University will introduce AMD, describe how this disease is detected and report how recent research may be turning the tide on the fight for sight with AMD.

Myth-busting Dementia and How to Reduce our Personal Risk

Thursday 25 February, 11:30 am - 12:30 pm
Suitability: 18+

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are some of the most feared conditions of our time. We all know someone who has experienced these illnesses, but public understanding about them is limited. Common misconceptions, for example, that dementia is an inevitable part of ageing, are damaging and delay help-seeking in those who are worried about their memory. As an active researcher, and someone with lived experience of dementia, Dr Paula McClean will discuss our current understanding about these conditions, challenge common misconceptions, explain how we can reduce our own risk and show how participation in research is vital to defeat dementia.

Medicine for Me versus Medicine for We: The Background to Personalised Medicine

Friday 26 February, 10:30 am - 11:30 am
Suitability: 18+

In recent years, personalised medicine has been a growing area of research, with promising individualised treatments for a whole range of diseases including cancer. This has involved the study of genes and changes in our DNA. By understanding our genetic information, we have the potential to transform the NHS and revolutionise patient treatment. In this short talk, Sarah Atkinson will consider the benefits and risks of DNA testing technology and if applying this technology will improve outcomes.

We will look at whether ‘personalised’ is automatically better in the case of medicine or if medicine should be more about ‘we’.