The Happiness Connection  

Alzheimer's: model for us all

I stumbled across an inspiring story this week, about an 81-year-old who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about three years ago.

Alzheimer’s is a scary diagnosis for many, including myself. You may do everything possible to keep your brain in tip-top condition. No matter what you do there is no guarantee you will live out your life, dementia free.

I am using Alzheimer’s and dementia interchangeably, but let me clarify the difference between the two. Dementia is the general term for a decline in mental ability that is severe enough to interfere with daily life.

Alzheimer’s disease is one form of dementia.

According to the Canadian Alzheimer Society:

  • Over half a million Canadians are currently living with dementia.
  • There are about 25,000 new cases in Canada every year.
  • The number of those affected is expected to increase to about 937,000 by 2031.

It isn’t what happens to you that makes your life good or bad. Satisfaction levels come from how you respond to the things that happen to you.

Rather than accepting his fate and waiting for his world to disappear, Ron Robert chose to do everything he could to strengthen his brain and slow the progress of the disease.

He got physically fitter and then to keep his brain active, he decided to go back to school. Robert enrolled in political science and disability studies classes at King’s University College in London, Ont.

There are three major benefits of his decision to become a student again.

  • Going to college regularly to attend classes has a physical benefit. What is good for your body is good for your brain.
  • Going back to school benefits you mentally. Learning keeps your brain engaged.
  • Interacting with faculty and fellow students has a social benefit. Social interaction boosts your happiness. Studies indicate it may also reduce your risk of developing dementia. This research is far from conclusive, but early results are promising.

The result for this octogenarian has been an improvement in long-term memory. He struggles occasionally with disorientation, but his fellow students and college employees are quick to help.

Mental illness is surrounded by stigma. It makes people who have never been around it, very uncomfortable. It is natural to be nervous around things you aren’t familiar with.

Robert is desensitizing people by giving them a chance to interact with him. In my opinion, this is the best way to banish stigma.

This story has made me stop and think about how I would feel if I received a similar diagnosis. Would I be as proactive? I hope so.

Robert is a role model for all of us.

In a CTV news interview,Robert said, “Well, it’s not an end – it’s just a new beginning. It’s something you’ve got to work at. And actually, it’s a good thing because I was getting quite bored being retired! So this is all a new challenge for me.”

Now, that’s an example I want to copy.

January is Alzheimer’s Awareness month in Canada.Take time to find out more about this disease and how to keep your brain healthy. 

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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