INTERDEM travel fellowship

Reflections on a journey of research and connections

I had the pleasure of spending almost a month and a half on an INTERDEM travel fellowship this past April and May. My topic for the exchange was Connecting Minds, Advancing Care: Advancing Dementia Prevention and Care Innovation through Global Research Partnerships and Knowledge Exchange.

I went to the University of Surrey, in April, and to Maastricht University, in May, to connect with professors, researchers and other PhD students, to discuss and develop ideas for future research around the topic of dementia prevention in care home settings. Both institutions have been conducting research in psychosocial interventions and dementia prevention and so collaborating with them made all sense!  

At the University of Surrey, supervised by Prof Victoria Tishler, I had the pleasure of meeting academics from the ageing cluster as well as visiting their sleeping lab which is conducting some great work on the role of sleep in dementia!

In the beautiful city of Maastricht, under the supervision of Prof Sebastian Köhler met and worked with peers from the Risk and Prevention of the Alzheimer Center Limburg. (

The conversations I had, with colleagues and peers alike, really got my brain thinking of how we can optimize interventions in care home settings, to not only prevent cases of dementia but overall physical and cognitive decline in a population at risk. We discussed the importance of targeting individuals in their transition into care, as this is a vulnerable moment for individuals moving into a new, strange environment, and how staff can support individuals’ navigating a new “home” environment. I brainstormed over coffee breaks, but I also had fascinating Zoom calls with academics from all over the world, from care home researchers in America, academics in Australia working in modelling of dementia risk, to researchers working in partnership with industry to formulate scent-based research that can support people living with dementia.  I also had the pleasure of visiting the Geller Institute of Ageing and Memory ( where I met with Dr Federica D’Andrea and Dr Snorri Rafnsson and discussed some upcoming collaborations to build a research profile on the topic of care and interventions in care homes.

As part of this fellowship, I initiated a scoping review paper on risk factors for dementia prevention in care homes that I am aiming to submit to a peer academic journal by the end of this year. I also had the opportunity to be introduced and collaborate in projects with colleagues I met while on the fellowship (such as scoping review on religious interventions to provide support in dementia care, support students on a research thesis on perceptions of ageing in people living with dementia and carers).

The travel fellowship allowed me to, not only define the scope of a future research grant application but also meet colleagues in other institutions that are interested in the same topic: enhancing the lives of people living with dementia, as well as targeting cognitive decline in any setting. 

One of the highlights of the travel fellowship was meeting new people face to face, creating connections, and brainstorming with like-minded individuals. These connections I will take with me for my future career. No great advancement in research is done alone. We need to connect with other people and be inter-disciplinary if we want to make a change and have an impact. We can always learn from others and share our thoughts and ideas with others, and I learnt that more often than not, people want to hear what we have to say. I appreciate the opportunity I was given, and I look forward to gathering all my notes from this experience and helping put together a research grant that bridges dementia prevention strategies for improving quality of life and quality of care in care homes and enhancing psychosocial research. 

On a more personal, and professional note, I will be returning to Surrey as a Research Fellow from July. I look forward to continuing the inter-disciplinary collaborations I have built with the fellowship.

Finally, below you can find some pictures of the beautiful Surrey campus, as well as the amazing city of Maastricht. Could not have chosen better places to travel to.

Thanks to INTERDEM for the fellowship and to Profs Victoria and Sebastian for welcoming me!

by Andreia Fonseca de Paiva (currently finishing a PhD at the University of Bradford, UK)