AUSTIN (KXAN) — Julianne Moore is the overwhelming favorite to win the Best Actress Oscar for her poignant portrayal in “Still Alice” of a brilliant professor coping with the onset of Alzheimer’s. Experts are constantly finding new ways to fight the early stages of that disease. The AGE group of Central Texas offers free weekly sessions for early onset patients, and they have found it invaluable in more ways than one.
As the haze of Alzheimer’s deepens you don’t realize you have entered a netherworld. But early on, you fight it and resist. Worst of all may be the feeling of being all alone. AGE sessions provide peer support and the latest techniques to bestir the brain: games, lyrics, mind twisters, shared jokes and books. “Research has shown these types of activities help keep the brain active and improve quality of life,” said K.C. Lawrence, Director of the Early Memory Loss Program.
The folks in these sessions have lived full lives. Gary Cobb, a former UT professor of math and electrical engineering, like the others, fights to maintain his independence. He refuses suggestions to take a new driver’s test. He still gets around alone although doesn’t venture too far. “I have not found it to be, just getting lost or abandoned. Dangerous? No it’s not dangerous.”
Cobb found the most pleasure from the group meetings to be in the companionship. “It’s birds of a feather for me, to find other people and finding what issues they are having gives me a feeling of comfort,” he said
“They talk about how much they love coming here. They really form a bond together,” Lawrence explained. “There is a lot of laughter and a lot fun. I think it provides a safe place, where if you forget a word you want, you know that everyone is sharing that experience.”
Cobb keeps up his resistance at home, through smartphone games with a network of strangers, engineering computer projects and continued studies. “I order courses and take courses. I am still hungry for new stuff. I’ve made a soft spot, a comfortable spot that I can live in,” he said, smiling.
Five million Americans have Alzheimer’s. There is a 10% occurrence of Alzheimer’s in people age 65, and half of those 85 years and older have the disease. Alzheimer’s is considered the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
Should you want to learn more about AGE of Central Texas and their range of programs, click here. You can also email AGE for additional information.