Sunday, 9 September 2012

Alzheimer's and the Memory Walk

Today we walked 7.5 km to help support the Hunter's contribution to Alzheimer's Australia Memory Walk and Jog as part of the "Race Against Dementia"
It was a lot of fun and not particularly challenging; although I found it remarkable to discover that given a t-shirt, a bib number and a memory tag to stick on my shoe, it was all at once important to get past those folk walking in front of us and to finish in a good time!  It was a magnificent Spring day. The people of Newcastle and the Hunter region turned out in force with over 1200 walkers and joggers turning up to compete and enjoy a day by the lake with families and friends and more importantly, to raise money for the fight against this insidious disease which touches the lives of so many of us. 
I was inspired by the fact that this is the first time the Hunter has been involved in the Memory Walk which has been taking place in Sydney for the past three or four years, and yet this year as many people turned up to walk or jog along the shore of Lake Macquarie from Speers Point to Warners Bay and back as competed in Sydney in May along the lovely Bay Run around Leichhardt Park.  I can see this becoming something of a major event in years to come - I certainly hope so.
It was great that so much money was raised; but equally as important to me, and I'm sure to the many who were there is that events like these raise awareness more than anything else.
I have been involved in the past in fund raising and sponsorship associated with numerous good causes - and by the way there are no bad causes - but it was not until today that I learned that dementia is the third leading cause of death in Australia after heart disease and stroke and contrary to a widely held misconception it is not a normal part of aging. It is incurable and fatal and every week 1,600 new cases of dementia are diagnosed in Australia. This number is expected to increase to 7,500 a week in the next 40 years. 
Athough it is generally more common for people over the age of 65, dementia occurs to people in their 30s and 40s as well - and this is what staggers me: the global cost of dementia is about $600 billion annually and this is about 1% of the world's gross domestic product!
Nearly 300,000 people are living with some form of dementia in Australia and Alzheimer's Disease is its most common form. If there is no breakthrough this number will be over a million by 2050.
So we did the walk, and we raised some money, and as we all walked we thought about people close to us that we knew who had suffered dementia and whose quality of life had deteriorated so much, when it need not have done.  I kept thinking about the fact that dementia is NOT just part of aging - and it's true; how many people do we know in their 80s and 90s whose minds are as active now as they have always been?
If you have read this far, you know I'm going to ask you to get involved.  It's not too late to visit our sponsorship page and donate at, or if not go to the Alzheimer's Australia website, or the website for the local Alzeimher's association where ever you are reading these words, and please help support this most worthy and essential cause.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.

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