Rob Stewart takes a look at the changes of how we perceive aging and senility.
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Changes in Perceiving Aging and Senility Rob Stewart: As we age keeping our minds active is crucial. Taking care of ourselves as we get older, well, often times help maintain middle strength later in life. You know Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can strike at any age. Not just our senior years. Memory loss can have huge impact on family members who often times become caregivers themselves. We began with a look back at how our beliefs about aging and memory loss have profoundly changed with time. A lot has changed regarding our thoughts on aging and memory. It wasn’t long ago when America that people just became “senile” or loss their minds. And for society as a whole, that was just seems as a fact of aging. Michael McCloud: Senility is still in the dictionary. If you go to Merriam Webster senility is the mental infirmity of older age. Well, that’s pejorative definition if there ever was one. You know it’s amazing if you think that up until about 1970, the old bromide was if you like long enough you’re going to get significantly confused. You’re going to be senile. Rob Stewart: Today, we know a little forgetfulness as we aged is normal. But memory loss that disrupts daily life, that’s abnormal and a sign of a problem. Barbara Gillogly: The standard analogy is if you can’t find your car keys and you look and look and there they are and you know that you were looking for them, why you were looking for them, and what you do with them, that’s normal. If you can’t find your car keys and later you find them and you don’t know what to do with them that’s abnormal. That’s dementia. Rob Stewart: But for decade’s especially through the 1940’s and 50’s, when a person exhibited what we now know are classic signs of Alzheimer’s they stood a good chance of being sent to an institution. In fact many people declared senile ended up in a asylums to the point were over crowding became a national issue. So how did this happen? It begins with Dr. Alois Alzheimer discovering the cognitive disease in 1901 and later presenting it to a meeting of doctors in 1906. Michael McCloud: And what he concluded the moderator of that meeting said, “Well, any questions?” There was no question. This was truly thought to be a very unusual bizarre footnote that none of us would ever actually see in the practice of medicine. And boy, was everyone wrong? Rob Stewart: In 1970, 69 years after Alzheimer’s discovery, two neuroscientist Blessed and Tomlinson from the University of Manchester published research that finally change doctors views. Michael McCloud: And what they saw was a real brain change. They showed that most of those people who were being labeled senile had these lesions in their brain. This litter, a glue like litter. We call it tangles and plaques that was exactly what Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1906 had described in one haze as being medical oddity. But Blessed and Tomlinson showed us, “That’s not an oddity at all. That’s not a medical curiosity. That’s what we’re calling senility. Rob Stewart: Rita Hayworth was the first big star to be diagnosed with the disease in 1980, and she died from Alzheimer’s seven years later. But of all things what really segmented the disease into the public consciousness was a letter to Dear Abby dated October 23rd 1980. Michael McCloud: Pauline Philips who wrote the column in Dear Abby, received a letter from someone who sign that as Desperate in New York, that saying that her husband have been diagnosed with this disorder called Alzheimer’s disease. And doctors didn’t seem to know much about it and it was just a nightmare. And the weeks after that letter was published, the Alzheimer’s association received somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 letters saying, “Yeah, our family member has also been given that diagnosis. Rob Stewart: Today, not only our thoughts but sensitivity to memory loss has completely changed since the days of simply calling people senile. And that’s mainly because we know more about diseases that affects