New research suggests kapa haka and speaking Te Reo may help older Māori avoid dementia.

The report, Health, Independence and Caregiving in Advanced Age,  is the first study to consider dementia among Māori. It is part of the Life and Living in Advanced Age: a Cohort Study in New Zealand — Te Puâwaitanga O Ngâ Tapuwae Kia Ora Tonu (LiLACS NZ) research by the University of Auckland.

LiLACS NZ, the world’s first longitudinal study of an indigenous population in advanced age, has produced a series of reports about Māori and non-Māori health needs. Comparisons are made to investigate potential disparities.

Researchers found cultural activities such as kapa haka and speaking Te Reo may help preserve cognition for older Māori.

In 2013, the Government invested $1.8 million in LiLACS NZ. Associate Health Minister Nicky Wagner has welcomed the research.

“This is a fascinating new insight into ageing and what it means to age successfully, particularly for older Māori. Research such as this is incredibly important for developing health and disability policies for our ageing population,” says Wagner.

“The Government is committed to improving dementia care in New Zealand through increased funding — including a boost of more than $100 million since 2011 — and the release of the New Zealand Framework for Dementia Care in 2013.

“Further strengthening of the dementia care framework is part of the Government’s Healthy Ageing Strategy, which recognises the higher care needs of some older Māori and makes commitments to reducing health inequities.”

The latest LiLACS NZ report is available at: https://www.fmhs.auckland.ac.nz/assets/fmhs/faculty/lilacs/research/docs/Dementia-Supplement-Research-Report.pdf

For more information on the Healthy Ageing Strategy: http://www.health.govt.nz/publication/healthy-ageing-strategy

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