Millions to Keeping the Brain Healthy Throughout Life – University of Copenhagen

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09 March 2017

Millions to Keeping the Brain Healthy Throughout Life


New, innovative pilot project funded by Nordea-fonden will translate research-based knowledge about keeping the brain young throughout life into concrete activities and disseminate existing knowledge. The aim is to enable more senior citizens to remain active for longer. The project is a collaboration between DGI, the Agency for Culture and Palaces and the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of Copenhagen.

Photo: Bent Nielsen for DGI

By 2050 the number of senior citizens aged 80 years or more will have tripled. Many people will therefore get more active years after retiring. But how do we keep the brain fit for as long as possible? Research shows that exercise, mental stimulation and social intercourse are key elements. During the two-year pilot project Keep Your Brain Healthy (Danish: Hold hjernen frisk) the project partners DGI, the Agency for Culture and Palaces and the research center, Center for Healthy Aging at the University of Copenhagen will translate research-based knowledge into engaging and community-creating activities for senior citizens at retirement age and disseminate existing knowledge in various forms. DGI will be heading the project.

"The Keep Your Brain Healthy project will fill a void for activities in the cross field between exercise and culture and represents an innovative collaboration between associational life, libraries and research. We are very much looking forwards to the collaboration and believe it holds great potential for developing new, fun and interesting activities for senior citizens", says Member of DGI’s Central Board Annette Vilhelmsen.

Evidence-Based Knowledge Is the Foundation

The Center for Healthy Aging at the University of Copenhagen will function as a knowledge and communication partner in the project. The centre considers research dissemination a main task and focuses on how existing knowledge can be implemented in society. Among other things, the project will use a short, accessible book and a rucksack containing local activities and exercises you can do at home to communicate research results throughout the country.

"Research shows that senior citizens can take an active part in preventing e.g. dementia. We therefore want to inspire senior citizens about to retire to remain active – physically, mentally and socially. They are facing an important part of life, where they have to consider changes in habits and lifestyle. We want to contribute with new knowledge on how senior citizens can actively contribute to keeping the brain young. For example, talking to friends and making choices, preferably while the heart is beating faster than normal, is good for the brain", says Associate Professor Ellen Garde from the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of Copenhagen.

Social Activities for the Body and Brain

The project aims to develop three types of activities containing both physical, mental and social elements. One of these activities, SMART Training, is already under development, while the other two, Naturtræning for seniorer and Kulturen i bevægelse – bevægelse i kulturen, will be developed at the beginning of the project period. The aim is to get 750 senior citizens over the next two years to participate in the activities, which will be conducted at five different locations.

"The libraries support life-long learning and communication of literature, and they have considerable experience with testing new methods and activities. All Danish libraries will therefore be invited to contribute with suggestions for innovative activities, where culture and exercise go hand in hand – also outdoors. This could e.g. include literary walks or exploring local culture, nature and history on your bike. It could be activities with your grandchildren or something else entirely. The activities will be based on the libraries’ ideas and local experiences with what works", says Head of Division Tine Vind from the Agency for Culture and Palaces.

Nordea-fonden supports the pilot project with DKK 6.2 million over two years.

"We want to inspire more senior citizens to keep their head, body, everyday life and friendships going. This innovative collaboration between researchers, culture and sports players etc. will re-energize mature brains", says Director of Nordea-fonden Henrik Lehmann Andersen, which supports the good life.

Researchers from the Center for Healthy Aging will evaluate the effects experienced by the participating senior citizens and conduct cognitive tests, while European Fitness Badge is responsible for evaluating the physical effects.


DGI: Central Board Member Annette Vilhelmsen,, phone: +45 20 88 70 64

Agency for Culture and Palaces: Head of Division Tine Vind,, phone: +45 33 73 33 71

Nordea-fonden: Director Henrik Lehmann Andersen, via Head of Communications Tine Wickers,, phone: +45 40 70 37 84

Center for Healthy Aging: Associate Professor and Doctor Ellen Garde,, phone: +45 20 32 10 55
Communications Consultant Gitte Frandsen,, phone: 51 29 80 05