Historically, Alzheimer’s disease has been viewed as an ‘elder issue’. A worry that only occupies the minds of older adults. Something for you to worry about much later in life. To some, that might still be true. But this disease has been concerning those much younger recently as well. Of course everyone has a different connection to the disease, from caregivers to community members, but for one high school student the concern is a global one.
Emsley Jones, a high school senior at Myers Park High School in Charlotte, has a couple connections to Alzheimer’s disease. The husband of her piano teacher, whom she has known for years, has Alzheimer’s disease. She has also watched her next door neighbor with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease progress through her illness with interest and concern. This connection was especially striking as she watched her neighbor change from “always laughing, bubbly, and kind” to someone she wasn’t able to fully understand, unable to hold a conversation or play together with her dogs. She remembers discussing with her parents some seemingly strange actions like a hyperfocus on cleaning the streets of debris. “We didn’t really speak about it [up until then]. We just got to a point where everyone knew,” explained Emsley. Her neighbor recently passed away, so the loss is still fresh for Emsley and her community.
After speaking with several of her friends, Emsley realized that concerns about Alzheimer’s disease resonated much further than she had initially realized. This led her and a couple of other students at her high school to start an awareness club…in the middle of a pandemic…over Zoom. But somehow that didn’t stop this group of passionate young people. They named their group “AAA” or “Alzheimer’s Action and Awareness” club. The purpose was to “get people involved in the Alzheimer’s community.” The group is already 42+ members strong, and the majority have no close experience with Alzheimer’s disease. This is clearly a disease that young people care about, regardless of personal experience. They get just how devastating it is on a personal and national level.
“The point of the AAA club”, Emsley explains, is “to educate” fellow students, and to fundraise in support of their community. They accomplish this in several ways. Emsley has hosted piano recitals in several memory care communities in honor of her teacher’s husband. The AAA group meets regularly to share stories and brainstorm events to connect. Over the 2020 holiday season, the group hosted a holiday card drive and exchanged greeting cards with a local Alzheimer’s wellness day center. Emsley has been interested to see how Alzheimer’s disease “progresses for different people,” as she connects with the wider community. The group also wants to get a speaker series lined up to learn more about the disease and how they can make a real impact as young people faced with this concern in the future.
The group participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s last year, walking separately in their own neighborhoods and fundraising virtually. They used social media, like Instagram stories, to spread awareness of their fundraising, and reached out to other family members that might be able to support their efforts. Emsley also donates a portion of her homemade jewelry sales to her team’s efforts. This year, the club is planning to come together in person following safety protocols, to the Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Charlotte on October 23. “I’m really excited to see the Alzheimer’s support community in person this year,” shares Emsley. It will be a different experience, for sure! As an individual, Emsley has also joined her local walk’s planning committee, working on Marketing and Outreach, to grow community even outside of her high school for other like minded younger people.
Emsley’s story is just one example of the difference you can make to the Alzheimer’s community regardless of your connection to the disease. During the Walk to End Alzheimer’s opening ceremony, both in person and virtually, there comes a point where everyone shares their connection via displaying a representative flower. Like Emsley, many in the crowd will hold up an orange flower, representing their support for a world without Alzheimer’s disease. For some, that could be a new-found fight later in life after seeing spouses or friends developing the disease. For others, like Emsley, her orange flower will represent the beginning of a life-long fight against a disease that she sees as a community wide fight, a global fight, a fight for her generation and the next.
LIKE EMSLEY AND THE AAA CLUB MEMBERS, WE ALL HAVE A REASON TO FIGHT FOR A WORLD WITHOUT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE. Join your local Walk to End Alzheimer’s today.
The Alzheimer’s Association hosts 17 walks across North Carolina. The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Since 1989, the Alzheimer’s Association® mobilized millions of Americans in the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk®; now the Alzheimer’s Association is continuing to lead the way with Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Together, we can end Alzheimer’s.
We’re moving forward with plans to host the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s® in person this fall. We are planning every Walk with the health and safety of our constituents, staff and volunteers as our top priorities. All events will implement safety protocols including physical distancing, masks (where required), contactless registration, hand sanitizing stations and more. We will continue to closely monitor Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local guidelines to ensure Walk events adhere to recommendations and are safe for attendees, as well as offer options to participate online and in your neighborhood.
2021 NORTH CAROLINA WALK DATES
Alamance County – 9.25.21
Asheville – 10.9.21
Charlotte – 10.23.21
Fayetteville – 10.30.21
Gaston/Cleveland/Lincoln – 10.9.21
Guilford County – 10.16.21
Henderson County – 9.25.21
Hickory – 10.31.21
Iredell County – 9.25.21
Jacksonville – 10.16.21
Moore County – 9.25.21
Mount Airy – 9.18.21
New Bern – 10.23.21
Rowan-Cabarrus – 10.30.21
Triangle – 10.9.21
Wilmington – 11.6.21
Winston-Salem – 11.6.21