as I have written in earlier blogs, I volunteered a couple years ago when I turned 90 (2010) to participate in an Alzheimer study being done by U of Southern California at Irvine. To be eligible one must be 90, dementia-free as determined by their researchers, willing to be tested every six months until you die, and agree to donate your brain to USC.
It’s pretty obvious why they want volunteers who are dementia-free at 90. They need to compare behaviors and then brains of those who die with and without signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s. I write about it here because if there are any nonagenarians out there still fit and playing bridge and dementia-free, you should consider checking to see if more volunteers are needed. I told the two women this time, they ought to check out bridge clubs–both ACBL type and sociable like mine if they can find them–if they need more nonagenarian participants. But they said the terms of this particular study bars “recruiting” — participants must be volunteers.
Most nonagenarians like me know we’re fortunate to be here, and so if we have something of value to offer researchers by our mere existence, I think we should do that if our family agrees. Mine does. It makes me feel useful for something! Not only that–I’ve come to enjoy the few hours every six months the testing takes. I hustle around and clean house for one thing–I always need impending visitors to really clean my condo. The tests are interesting, and I like the two researchers! One is a physician the other some kind of sociologist or social worker.
I find too that I do exercises I wouldn’t otherwise do, knowing I will be asked to do a few [Seated in chair, cross arms over chest and stand up–I started doing that 10 times in a row a few times each week only because it’s part of the testing process. They take a movie of me walking and talking, samples of handwriting, et cetera, et cetera.
Repeating ever-longer lists of words and numbers–sometimes in reverse–is part of the testing. I have an unfair advantage in this type of test–I worked as a court stenographer for many years back in my younger days. To do this kind of work, you have to be able to write what you’ve already heard while simultaneously listening to what’s being said at the moment–far more difficult than than simply remembering and repeating a series of words or numbers read to you.
Will it depress me if there are signs of deterioration one day? I honestly don’t think so. In any case, one can withdraw from the study at any time–I’m hoping (and have instructed my daughter of this) that if I do start going down hill and not able to decide, she’s authorized to continue the testing.
This is my 6-month report. The two researchers came just a week or two ago for the fourth time. Their report has to be evaluated by headquarters I believe, but they reported informally all’s well, no diminished capacity in last six months. So . . . if you find anything I blog these days getting a bit crazy or irrational — can’t blame it on old age dementia. Not so far anyway!