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Who will be the first to survive Alzheimer's?

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Have you ever driven by the Keene State campus and seen the multi-colored flowers “planted” by the Arch? If not, check them out on Saturday, Sept. 14, when the Western New Hampshire Walk to End Alzheimer’s kicks off to provide critical hope.

As readers know, my wife, Norma, and I took on the fight against this sixth leading cause of death in the United States with her diagnosis in 2010. In an Age-Wise column of November 2012, we declared our intention to share the long goodbye journey with you.

My care giving came to an end on July 11 with her passing, but the effort to find a cure and educate regarding the 16.1 million Americans who are unpaid caregivers of loved ones with dementia, often of the Alzheimer’s type, goes on.

Every 65 seconds someone in this country develops the disease. With 5.7 million of us living with Alzheimer’s, by 2050 this number is projected to rise to nearly 14 million! (Unless we find a cure, which requires resolve, research and resources).

The walks are one means of gaining awareness as well as dollars to advance the fight. The Alzheimer’s Association calls itself the “Brains Behind Saving Yours” and invites one and all to participate — contribute, walk, call the free 24/7 hotline (800-272-3900) for support.

And, oh yes — the flowers … there is a color for each one of us in this battle:

Blue: I have Alzheimer’s

Yellow: I am supporting or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s

Purple: I have lost someone to Alzheimer’s

Orange: I support the cause and vision for a world without Alzheimer’s

Together these colorful flowers create a Promise Garden where participants raise and then “plant” their flower to remember, care, honor and fight for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Personal messages are often written on the petals.

Our Keene walk, including the Eastern Monadnock area, will exceed goals for participation and funds with your help — there is still time to join in — register online at www.alz.org/walk, find Keene by entering 03431 and help lead the way to Alzheimer’s first survivor!

Join the fight by starting a team, registering as an individual, recruiting friends and co-workers, raising funds and awareness ($150 or more for the official 2019 T-shirt), and come together with us in Keene to show force and wave your flower.

You will not be alone. Every year more than 500,000 people come together in more than 600 communities for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Carrying flowers, which represent their connection to the disease, the participants share the common hope for a cure someday.

According to our NH-MA Executive Director Jim Wessler, we are ever closer to a new treatment, cure and ways to prevent the disease. He writes this month that “I have just returned from the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference where 6,000 scientists and other experts spent five days sharing and learning about the very latest dementia research.” The walk helps fund these projects.

He also pointed to research which promotes the adoption of healthy lifestyle habits that benefit the brain and may offset genetic and environmental risks, as well as research into gender differences which suggest consideration when diagnosing and treating the disease.

Almost everyone I have approached to help in the fight expresses a personal connection with relative, friend or neighbor. Sometimes there is a complaint that the Alzheimer’s Association is “too pushy!” Well, they make no apology for being relentless to find a cure since Alz is itself relentless!

How about a white flower? For Alzheimer’s first survivor! Who will that be on a beautiful day made possible when folks rally to the cause against this insidious disease? Could be someone you know! Cheers!

Owen R. Houghton, Ed.D., lives in Jaffrey and is a retired aging wellness educator who has experienced 10 years of providing and finding care for his spouse with Alzheimer’s. As a member of Monadnock at Home, he is an advocate for aging well. Readers may contact him at nohoughton@myfairpoint.net.

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