The 33rd Alzheimer Europe Conference (#33AEC) “New opportunities in dementia care, policy and research” was formally opened on 16 October 2023. The conference took place as a hybrid event, with delegates and presenters able to join either on site at the Messukeskus Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre or online, with the aim of ensuring the event is as accessible, inclusive and interactive as possible. A record number of over 1,100 participants (1,000 of these in person) from 48 countries attended the conference, which took place from 16 to 18 October 2023.
Day one, 16 October 2023
Rosário Zincke dos Reis, Chairperson of Alzheimer Europe, opened the conference. She extended a special welcome to the 56 people with dementia among the delegates, as well as to the 66 carers/supporters in attendance. “I am delighted to note that we have a record number of participants at this year’s conference, with over 1,100 people joining us today, in person and online”, she said. She also thanked Alzheimer Europe’s sponsors, including Gold sponsors, Lilly and Roche and Bronze sponsors, BioArctic, Eisai, MSD and Prothena.
To make a better world for people with dementia, all our efforts must be focused in three main areas, she stressed. Firstly, we need to focus on finding and implementing better practices when providing care, along the disease pathway. All the while, we need to invest in research into better pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments. Finally, we must also fight to ensure that dementia is recognised as a public health priority, both at European and national level and that specific policies are put in place, accordingly.
On the morning of 16 October, prior to the start of the conference, the Annual Meeting of Alzheimer Europe adopted the “Helsinki Manifesto”, which contains a comprehensive range of measures and actions across the key areas that have the greatest impact on the lives of people with dementia, their families and carers. “It is proof”, said Rosário Zincke dos Reis, “of our commitment to achieve our goals, always with the involvement of people with dementia, ensuring their voice is listened to in everything we do.” In closing, she commented that she felt sure that this Manifesto would be another highly meaningful milestone for the European Dementia Movement.
Following these opening words, delegates were addressed by Jenni Kulmala, Chairperson of Muistiliitto and Associate Professor of Gerontology, Tampere University, Finland, who noted that 26 years had passed since Alzheimer Europe first held an Annual Conference in Helsinki. While dementia still poses one of the biggest health challenges we face in an ageing society, she said, it is important that we should also take note of the steps forward that we have taken together over the last decades:
- Advances in science have provided better understanding of biological origins of dementia, its types, symptoms, diagnosis and care.
- We also know how we can promote brain health during the whole life course and possibly delay the onset of dementia.
- In addition, the voices and views of people living with dementia are better heard.
“The Alzheimer Europe conference is a place where we can take new steps forward. We will have dialogue between dementia researchers, healthcare professionals, policymakers and non-governmental organisations. Ultimately, multi-professional collaboration is the key to a more dementia-friendly world”, she said and stated that “Finland is paving the way in dementia prevention research, and we also want to be a country where research meets practice”.