As our first effort at The Longest Day is coming to an end, I’m excited about the potential of this event. When I was on the Chicago Lakefront on my bike during my four hours of riding to honor my mother, who had Alzheimer’s, for all that she did for my brother and me, I was also thinking about all the people who have the disease today (an estimated 5.4 million) and, regrettably, all the people who will have it going forward (as many as 16 million just 39 years from now unless we change the course of the disease through sufficient research). And I was thinking about their caregivers (15 million already today).
At the Alzheimer’s Association we work every day to improve the lives of individuals who are facing the disease, both those with a diagnosis and those who care for them, as we also invest directly in research to change the course of the disease and as we pursue public policy changes to have both our federal and state leaders recognize and address the dramatic impact of Alzheimer’s at both the human level and an economic level. Another thing we’ve been working on in the last few years, which I hope you’ve noticed, is raising public attention to the disease and engaging people across the country in activities that will ultimately make better care, improved diagnosis, effective treatments and prevention a reality.
The Longest Day is the kind of event that can engage people around the country in helping us make those investments in support, public policy and research while it also focuses public attention on the realities of the disease: far from “a little memory loss” as too many Americans still believe, today it is progressive, degenerative and fatal. It doesn’t have to go on that way. The Longest Day is also the kind of activity that will help us change those realities. We can do it. With the public mobilized we can put an end to Alzheimer’s. The research community believes that we can conquer it and I do too.
I want to thank everyone who supports our work every day: our donors, our volunteers, our staff and everyone who helps in even the smallest way. Today I particularly want to thank the individuals who participated in today’s event. They are pioneers in our journey toward real changes in Alzheimer’s. I look forward to working with even more of you next year on The Longest Day as we aim toward the vision of the Alzheimer’s Association, a world without Alzheimer’s. Join us.
Harry Johns is president and chief executive officer of the Alzheimer’s Association.