Parkland Press

Wednesday, May 27, 2020


Wednesday, March 1, 2017 by The Press in Opinion

Wisdom in the age of dementia

Last week, former teen idol David Cassidy announced his dementia diagnosis.

According to media reports, the singer and television star, who once was the object of numerous fan clubs and had the ability to pack music venues with screaming tween and teenage girls, was struggling to remember lyrics to his songs while on tour.

Musician Glen Campbell announced his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in June 2011 and headlined a farewell tour, with three of his children in the band, to perform for fans.

In his final television performance at the Grammy Awards in February 2012, he performed “Rhinestone Cowboy,” one of his best-known songs.

Doctors found and revealed after his suicide that comedian and actor Robin Williams had dementia with Lewy bodies, a dementia characterized by memory loss in its later stages.

And Pat Summitt, the legendary coach of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team and the coach with the most wins in NCAA history, battled early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, until her passing in June 2016.

Cassidy is 66. Campbell was first diagnosed in his mid-70s. Williams was 63. Summitt was 59 when diagnosed. She died at age 64.

In the report, “2016 Alzheimer’s disease Facts and Figures,” available on The Alzheimer’s Association website,, the figures are particularly sobering.

According to statistics, one in nine of those age 65 or older have Alzheimer’s. And rates will rise rapidly as the baby boomer generation ages.

Such news has me wondering about big-picture concepts of wisdom and knowledge when personal memory and history flicker for many.

Now, do not get me wrong. This editorial piece does not profess to offer solutions such as brain training games or dietary solutions such as eating certain foods to promote memory health or engaging in a specific exercise regimen to maintain fitness of one’s synapses.

Instead, this piece is offered as a think piece, if you will, about a potential loss of human wisdom and knowledge we may face.

Dementia and its manifestations touch many people, many of whom you may count among your friends or people you know, myself among them. Several family members lived and live with dementia.

Of those mentioned above, many are of the age when experience has seasoned understanding of the surrounding world and lessons learned are shared.

For instance, Summitt developed a code shared with her student athletes known as the “Definite Dozen,” according to the tribute to her on the University of Tennessee website.

Among the most powerful: discipline yourself so no one else has to and handle success like you handle failure.

Many of Summitt’s players went on to win medals, play the game professionally and follow her into coaching.

Several of Campbell’s children followed him into music and entertainment.

And Williams, according to ABC News, worked with the Make a Wish Foundation for more than two decades helping children facing “life-threatening medical conditions.” He also performed for those in the military.

Perhaps, then, wisdom in the age of dementia comes in the lessons shared, the examples shown and reflection in our lives of the work of role models encountered every day.

April Peterson

editorial assistant

East Penn Press

Salisbury Press