Are you forgetting something? The reports of Alzheimer’s and dementia among the aging population of the United States are common. Many of a certain age fearfully connect any lapse in memory with the onset of these old-age plagues. In Indiana, as in many states, there are Alzheimer’s associations and dedicated hospital units to deal with what seems to be an increasing number of people coping with memory loss. My colleague, Karla Hackney, writing for the August 11, 2015 edition of the Southern Oregon Blogs, shares some hopeful research and a key to continued vitality and alertness: focusing on life’s spiritual purpose. Here’s Karla:
The Alzheimer’s Association 2015 Report of Facts and Figures, projects the disease to be significantly more prevalent in the next ten years, but such predictions are tied directly to demographics. The overall population is aging, and with the sheer volume of boomers reaching ages beyond 75, Alzheimer’s cases in Oregon alone are anticipated to increase 35-44%. Happily, some researchers are pointing us toward current trends that show how these projections could reverse. Most notable is the recent Rush University Medical Center study on aging that indicates the positive effect of meaningful and spiritual purpose in one’s life.
Currently, there are several well respected organizations validating Rush University Medical Center’s conclusions. For instance, the recent Alzheimer’s campaign presented by the Center for Applied Research in Dementia, Cameron J. Camp, Ph.D. (Director of Research and Development), challenges the common practice of calling Alzheimer’s a “disease” and opts instead to re-class it as a “syndrome,” thereby allowing society to integrate patients into mainstream culture and create opportunities for all to feel worthy and to have genuine purpose.
In Cleveland, Ohio, Peter Whitehouse, M.D., Ph.D. is successfully proving this approach. He and his wife founded the Intergenerational Charter Schools, where noteworthy academic achievement resulted when inner-city youngsters were paired with local retirees. Since their inception, Dr. Whitehouse has since conducted studies with the schools which provide evidence that elders are more mentally healthy when they have a reason to “stay alive, a genuine sense of purpose, and a community in which to do it….”