Hoos for Memory works on increasing Alzheimer's advocacy

Local group partners with regional, national chapters to spread awareness

Esteemed British novelist Iris Murdoch once said, “We live in a world of illusion. … The great task in life is to find reality.”

Perhaps in keeping with this illusion, Murdoch tragically died in 1999 from Alzheimer’s disease. Not only do Alzheimer’s patients find reality frighteningly stripped away as the disease attacks their memories, but public opinion seems to also fall under the illusion that memory loss is part and parcel of growing old.

June marks National Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, an advocacy effort spearheaded b the Alzheimer’s Association to help raise awareness and advocate for funding for Alzheimer’s research. Locally, Hoos for Memory is working to raise the University community’s awareness of the issue and help combat the misconception that the disease is an inevitability.

“A lot of people consider [Alzheimer’s] to be just an old person’s disease,” said Lauren Goldberg, a rising fourth-year Education student and president of Hoos for Memory. “There are a lot of [younger] people who are diagnosed with it, some around 50 years old.”

Goldberg’s grandfather, an Alzheimer’s patient, inspired her work to improve Alzheimer’s awareness. In high school, she organized volunteers to visit Alzheimer’s patients at local nursing homes. Now, as the president of Hoos for Memory, she organizes events which aim to engage the student population in Alzheimer’s advocacy.

“Munching for Memory is our biggest spring event,” Goldberg said. “We hold it in April, and it’s just a fun and unique day. There is no other hot dog eating contest on Grounds, and we donate all the proceeds of the event to Alzheimer’s research at U.Va.”

Hoos for Memory also collaborates with the Central and Western Virginia chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association to raise awareness. The Alzheimer’s Association sponsors the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Charlottesville.

“We do eight walks in our chapter area,” said MaryPat Hanson, director of the local chapter’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s. “The Charlottesville walk is held on October 18 in Lee Park.”
Caring for her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, led Hanson to dedicate her career to raising awareness.

“Early diagnosis is key,” Hanson said. “Even though there is no cure, everyone needs to understand there are ways they can keep Alzheimer’s at bay a little longer by eating a healthy diet, exercising and staying active.”

Recent research findings support this statement. A 2010 study by Gu et al., entitled “Food Combination and Alzheimer’s Disease Risk,” found that a diet consisting of nuts, fish, poultry, and green leafy vegetables was “strongly protective against the elements of Alzheimer’s disease.”

As the number of diagnosed Alzheimer’s patients continues to climb, affecting as many as 5 million Americans according to the Center for Disease Control, organizations like Hoos for Memory and the Alzheimer’s Association have made made it their primary mission to raise awareness and garner support for the issue.

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