Dr Yong is the Programme Leader, with her team consisting of fellow Sunway University academics, Dr Audrey Lim from the Department of Biological Sciences, School of Science and Technology, and Dr Nur Ain Shahrier from the Department of Economics and Finance, Sunway University Business School (SUBS). Also in the team are Associate Professor Alexandre Schaefer of Monash University Malaysia, Associate Professor Rozainee Khairudin from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), and Dr Alireza Zarei from Coventry University, UK. These members are themselves principal investigators of their respective projects.
Other collaborators include local and international experts from a variety of specialisations that are relevant to the overall research programme.
These are consultant radiologists from Sunway Medical Centre, Dr Adam Pany, and Dr Valarmathi Subramaniam; psychologist from University of Aberdeen UK, Prof Louise Phillips; neuroscientists Prof Carien van Reekum from University of Reading, UK, Associate Professor Ines Jentzsch from University of St Andrews, UK, Prof Ishwar Pahar and Associate Professor Tomoko Soga from Monash University Malaysia; geriatricians, Dr Rizah Mazzuin Ali and Dr Alan Pok from Hospital Kuala Lumpur; biologists, Dr Jactty Chew from Sunway Department of Biological Sciences, Sunway University, and Dr Teoh Seong Lin from UKM; nutritionist Dr Wong Jyh Eiin from UKM; and finance expert Prof Catherine Ho from UiTM Shah Alam.
Dr Yong and team’s research programme entitled, “Successful ageing: Evidence-based interventions to delay ageing-related decline” is the single largest research grant in the history of Sunway University. This research programme is categorized under the Aging cluster within Health research cluster, with a five-year duration beginning 1 December 2019 and is scheduled to be completed by 30 November 2024.
The main goal of the project is to examine whether ecologically-valid interventions can significantly slow down the normal rate of ageing-related decline in cognitive function, physical performance and brain activity in frontal and temporal brain areas, as well as to measure the economic impact of such interventions, over four years. The research team will target a sample representative of the population of ageing Malaysian citizens above 65 years-old. It is hoped that this project will provide evidence-based insights on successful ageing thus improving overall quality of life.
When asked on the importance of this project, Dr Yong had this to say, “The objectives of this project were derived from the challenges of finding out why some people age successfully and some do not. One key measure of successful ageing is the ability to lead an independent life. So, this project addresses a very pertinent issue because it is projected that up to 49.5% of Malaysian seniors will be dependent on the working age group (15-64 years) by 2040. Therefore, we need to know how we can promote more successful ageing.”
“The loss of independence is often associated to age-related decline in cognitive and physical abilities and therefore, understanding and subsequently addressing these declines (slowing or reversing them) is critical in improving the societal challenges faced by the elderly. Recent studies have shown promising cognitive and physical interventions aimed at slowing down ageing-related declines in quality of life, but they lack strong ecological validity (brief duration, unrealistic goals, no real-world application) and has yet to show robust evidence that such interventions are stable and suitable in the long-term. Like most interventions, participants’ decisions and motivational needs are factors for the sustainability in community-based interventions. Further, we are unaware on the cultural aspect of such interventions in an Asian population. So running this project would help us have a better understanding” she added.
The process of applying for grants is usually a very onerous one. So when asked about what she thought of her team’s achievement on the grant, Dr Yong said, “Fabulous! It was a great team effort for us to have had this outcome. We worked long and hard in designing a research proposal that has great impact to the nation. Malaysia is expected to be an aging nation, with longer lifespans and fewer births. It’s great to learn that our country is proactive in addressing what may become a large problem in the future.”
Head of the Department of Psychology, Assoc Prof Dr Alvin Ng is elated by Dr Yong’s success in obtaining such a large grant. He commented, “Getting the LRGS is a momentous accomplishment for the department and university. More so, given that the research project focuses on sustainability development with regards to the ageing population. It is very much the flavour of what Sunway is about – multidisciplinary collaborations in working towards sustainable goals! So it’s wonderful to have this ambitious project parked at Sunway University.”
To date, Dr Yong has obtained a number of research grants and is one of the most active researcher in the department, with her areas being on cognitive functioning in older adults (see: https://university.sunway.edu.my/blog/dr-yong-min-hooi-awarded-newton-u…); and empowering older adults in policy-making for successful ageing (https://university.sunway.edu.my/blog/imaginaging-%E2%80%93-collaborati… ). This LRGS grant win is a great addition to her profile as well as the Department’s and University’s profile.
The Department of Psychology, as well as the whole Sunway University is proud of Dr Yong Min Hooi’s achievement as a leading researcher. We wish her and her team the best in completing their research and adding to new knowledge for the benefit of the society.