Taking action against Alzheimer’s and dementia

By The Alzheimer’s/Dementia Rotarian Action Group

Nearly 45 million worldwide live with Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s/Dementia Rotarian Action Group (ADRAG) is a collection of Rotarians and Rotaractors dedicated to supporting the Rotary family and our communities. We aim to help those who face the challenge of dealing with family members and citizens that are afflicted with Alzheimer’s and/or dementia.

This challenge is very real.  Some call it the silver tsunami—the wave of men and women living longer than previous generations.  Yet our communities and nations are not ready to face the rising tide of those suffering from these diseases.  Today, one in eight older Americans has Alzheimer’s, and the risk of developing the disease doubles every five years after the age of 65. We started the Alzheimer’s / Dementia Rotarian Action Group (ADRAG) to help address this challenge.

ADRAG is involved in various projects and initiatives; we are currently working with 21 districts on related projects. We encourage you to get in touch with us to learn more and take action. Below are some examples of our work:

Supporting research

Two thirds of those impacted with Alzheimer’s / dementia are women. A woman at the age of 65 faces almost twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s in her lifetime as a man of the same age. Yet, very little is known or understood about why women are at a higher risk.

Dr. Rudy Tanzi, a leading researching from Harvard and the Massachusetts General Hospital is working to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. In collaboration with the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, Dr. Tanzi has agreed to help determine why women are at a higher risk.  ADRAG advised on this project and helped connect the Rotary Club of Martha’s Vineyard in the United States with the Rotary Club of Toronto in Canada to partner on a global grant for the research project.

Organizing a fun meeting space

ADRAG advised on the Memory Café project providing social support for people with dementia. The café offers a meeting place to gather for refreshments, conversation, music, movies, and entertainment. The Massachusetts Council on Aging provided a grant and the town provided a site with volunteers from the community. Since the project began in July 2016, we’ve had three meetings with 25 participants per meeting!

Creating friendlier communities

The initiative to create dementia-friendly communities was first created by Rotarians Tony Parker and Geri Parlby of RIBI’s Rotarians Easing Problems of Dementia (REPoD). By creating dementia-friendly communities, we increase awareness and understanding of the disease in the business, social and physical environments in which we all live.

The initiative first started in the town of Tavistock in England where social isolation was one of the biggest concern facing those with dementia. Research showed that people living with dementia and their care givers had three priorities: to feel safe and not embarrassed, to continue enjoying things they had always done, and to feel like they still belonged to the local community. Initiatives such as creating community sensory gardens, briefing social organisations such as churches and golf clubs on dementia, and encouraging dementia-friendly outdoor activities such as walking and photography were launched. More than 500 people in the town have received ‘dementia-friendly’ training and over 30 businesses and social groups are recognised as being dementia-friendly.

ADRAG hopes to expand this project to the USA. An estimated 120,000 people in Massachusetts alone lives with Alzheimer’s, and the number is expected to grow as the population grows older. We hope to reach as many people as we can in collaboration with Rotary clubs in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

ADRAG aim to leverage members’ experience, resources and the Rotary network to support and promote Alzheimer’s and dementia-related projects of all sizes at the local club, district, and international level by providing a global platform for collaboration, education, and support. Visit www.adrag.org  to access resources, become a member, or request assistance.

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