Most of us have at some stage met, or indeed are or have been related to, someone who has Alzeimer’s disease, which adversely affects the memory, and causes many difficulties for both sufferers and their loved ones. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, a collective name for progressive degenerative brain syndromes which affect memory, thinking, behaviour and emotion. Not an inevitable part of ageing, dementia affects some people only, but the older we are, the higher the probability.
Alzeimer’s and dementia arouse our compassion, and rightly so. However, we should not forget that those thus afflicted, and there are currently 30 million all over the world, this being a relatively common condition affecting older people, can and do lead active lives. These people can and do enjoy a quality of life which might surprise the less well informed. In an effort to get this message across Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) last year ran a worldwide photo competition. Themed “Active Life with Dementia”, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) invited entries from amateur and professional photographers worldwide. ADI member associations worldwide were invited to submit photographs from both amateur and professional photographers depicting people with dementia continuing to live a mentally and physically active life after diagnosis.
Among subjects depicted in the award-winning photographs were friends conversing around a table, a man and woman sitting together at a piano, a woman and three children gathered close together and peering through a window. Ordinary enough scenes, and in each, a person with dementia was to be seen, enjoying an active life. Harare amateur photographer Janet Wood was recently delighted to hear that she had won third prize in the amateur category, sharing the honours with Katherine Leong Peck Fun of Malaysia in first place and Theresia Jelmini-Nobel of Switzerland in second.
The ADI showcased the top six photographs in both categories at their recent 25th Conference held in March 2010 in Thessaloniki, Greece, and will use the photos in a variety of publications over the next three years. Photographers who scooped the top three prizes in the professional category came from Cyprus, Venezuela and Argentina. The aim was to raise awareness about what it means to live with Alzheimer’s and dementia by showing people living an active life after diagnosis. Entries came in from all over the world, showing people with dementia involved in all kinds of activities, giving them a face that differs from the common perception. Two of the photographs were in fact taken by people with dementia. Judging was carried out in London in January by five professional photographers, photojournalists and photo editors, and one person with dementia.
ADI is the international federation of 77 Alzheimer associations founded in 1984 as a network for Alzheimer associations around the world to share and exchange information, resources and skills, with a view to improving the quality of life of people with dementia and their families worldwide.