The 33rd Alzheimer Europe Conference will be held in Helsinki from 16 to 18 October 2023 in cooperation between Alzheimer Europe and the Alzheimer Society of Finland. Both organisations have successfully promoted the human dignity and rights of people with memory disorders and their families, which are universal and guaranteed, interalia, by the European Convention on Human Rights and other human rights treaties. An important task of the organisations is to promote the general prerequisites for the wellbeing and quality of life of people with memory disorders and their families.
It is a great honour for Finland to host the Conference, particularly because the Conference provides a good opportunity to engage in extensive networking with Europe and various actors to promote the prevention and treatment of memory disorders. The Conference will bring together people living with memory disorders, their loved ones, volunteers, professionals and decision-makers, as well as researchers and industry representatives. By working together, we have better opportunities to raise memory disorders as an important societal issue.
At this Alzheimer Europe Conference, the European Working Group of People with Dementia has for the first time organised its own session titled ‘Transforming personal experiences into political advocacy and public involvement in dementia research’. This shows us that people with memory disorders have the skills and resources to participate in societal influencing at national and international level. Their own experiences and genuine opportunities to participate can influence the lives of many of them and the decision-making and public opinion concerning them. The Conference is an important step towards showing a stronger respect and appreciation for the views of people with memory disorders.
The conference motto is ‘New opportunities in dementia care, policy and research’. I am pleased to say that considerable progress has been made recently in the treatment, research and diagnosis of memory disorders. However, research funding is still needed to better understand the mechanisms that lead to brain disorders, to improve diagnosis and to develop new treatments for brain disorders.
Early and correct diagnosis, the initiation of pharmacotherapy and rehabilitation are essential for the number of active and functional life years and a good life for people with memory disorders. The identification of memory disorders may be hindered by lack of information, stigma and negative attitudes towards memory disorders in society. These can be mitigated by providing appropriate information and by encouraging people with memory disorders to tell about their illness and its progression.
Internationally, the costs of memory disorders are estimated to increase as the population ages. According to studies, healthy lifestyles can prolong the onset of memory disorders and maintain functioning and the quality of life for those already living with memory disorders. Cost growth can be mitigated by increasing active and functional life years. Efforts to prevent memory disorders need to be further enhanced and the management of risk factors strengthened at individual and societal level.
The Conference will provide an opportunity for inspiring and useful encounters that can bring about something new. I wish you all a fruitful conference.
Patron of the Conference
Minister of Social Affairs and Health