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Steps for hope

Christopher Gagliardi Contributing Writer

A group of people got together at Bergen Community College on an Oct. 27 morning to walk to bring awareness to a silent killer: Alzheimer’s. It sneaks around, and its greatest victim is the human mind. 


It starts with forgetting simple things such as car keys and feeding one’s pets. It expands to forgetting your children’s names, members of their family and scheduled events or plans. Yet as time progresses, the symptoms get worse, until where you cannot remember anything about yourself. It seems as if all that we have learned, all the familiarities that we knew, everything that we had learned growing up is gone. 


According to the Alzheimer’s Association of America, every 65 seconds someone develops the disease. In addition, an estimated 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s today. On top of this, by 2050, the number of people aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s may grow to a projected 13.8 million. 


Alzheimer’s doesn’t just rob you of your memory, it can kill. It is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the fifth-leading cause of death among those aged 65 and older. In addition, it is also a leading cause of disability and poor health. In New Jerse, it’s estimated that 210,000 individuals aged 65 and older will suffer from either dementia or Alzheimer’s by the year 2025. 


“We’re amazed, people come out in the hundreds despite the rain, because the cause is more important than the weather,” said Ken Zaentz, President and CEO of Alzheimer’s New Jersey, an organization that is on the front lines of helping families who have loved ones that have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. He also stated that Bergen County has the highest percentage of people who have this, at 10%. He also mentioned that caregivers make up the major amount of helping people with Alzheimer’s. 


According to the president of the group, he stated that as many as 500 to 600 people signed up for the walk, and several companies and hospitals were also involved in raising over $100,000 for research to find a cure. Even the New Jersey Devils mascot came out to show their support. 


Team Yola had a special reason for doing this walk, as their mother was the victim of the disease more than 12 years ago. Heather Swain says that the support has been amazing, adding, “Until we were at our first walk, we didn’t realize how many people were affected. We felt that we were alone and instantly we felt a connection with thousands of people who have been touched. Somebody has to fight for them.” 


Her daughter Christy’s message is, “My hope is that people understand that this is a disease, that not just affects a patient, but affects everyone, and its impact shakes us to our core. But being here today, sharing this difficult experience, is very impactful and healing.”

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