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Alzheimer’s Association Hosts 10th Annual Health Symposium to Help Black and African Americans Age in Good Health and With Dignity

Alzheimer’s disease disproportionately affects people in Black and Hispanic communities, and older Black Americans are twice as likely as older white Americans to develop the disease. The Alzheimer’s Association’s Rochester & Finger Lakes Chapter hosted its 10th annual Dr. Lemuel & Gloria Rogers Health Symposium on March 11 to bring awareness, education and advocacy to the fight against the ongoing health crisis among the Black community. More Than 200 people registered for the complementary virtual event.  

This year’s conference may have been the most significant since its inception: As we enter the second year of COVID-19, the pandemic has had a staggering impact on both Black Americans and people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia. In 2020, 42,000 people died from Alzheimer’s and dementia—a 16% increase over the past five years. Over the past year, the need for support and services for those families living with dementia has increased and the Alzheimer’s Association delivered nearly 11,000 services locally.

The symposium was sponsored by several community organizations and businesses, including Minority Reporter. The event is named after Dr. Lemuel Rogers, one of the first Black doctors to build and own a medical building in Rochester, and his wife, Gloria Rogers. A practicing obstetrician and gynecologist for more than 30 years, Dr. Rogers delivered more than 5,000 babies. Gloria was a teacher and counselor in the Rochester City School District. Later in life, she developed Alzheimer’s and her husband developed dementia.

As a result, Dr. Rogers reached out and confided in family friends Ralph and Mollie Richards, members of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, a longtime partner of the Alzheimer’s Association and sponsor of the symposium since the founding of the church’s Alzheimer’s ministry in 2004. The Richards steered them toward the Alzheimer’s Association for support, and Dr. Rogers advocated for and educated the local Black community about the disease upon the connection. The Rogers were consummate providers, esteemed professionals and honorable pioneers who did so much for the community. They lived a full life and continue to give back posthumously through their tremendous legacy.

Their daughter, Lisa Rogers, was a guest speaker at this month’s health symposium alongside educators, researchers, community leaders and dignitaries across the country who contributed to the event and shared personal testimonials, research, and resources available for people living with the disease and their families/care partners.

More than 6 million Americans age 65+ live with Alzheimer’s—a number that is expected to more than double by 2050. In New York state, more than 400,000 people live with dementia and more than 1 million provide unpaid care to someone with the disease. Our country is growing older and more diverse.

The symposium addressed the challenges of caregiving during the pandemic; discussed racial disparities in care, support and treatment; examined barriers to participation in dementia research; and recommended lifestyle changes to lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. A theme of this year’s event was equitable Stanita Jackson, Ph.D., a community educator volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association, presented “Healthy Living for Your Brain and Body.” Jackson earned her doctorate in public health with primary research focus on Alzheimer’s in African Americans, minority health disparities, and nutritional health and wellness. She shared four focus areas important to healthy living for brain and body that could reduce the risk of developing dementia:

Cognitive activity: Keeping your brain active and stimulated forms new connections in brain cells. Complete puzzles, read books, learn new skills or hobbies, and engage in something you like to keep your mind active.

Physical health and exercise: Exercise and move your body every day. Walk, swim or dolight activity to keep your blood flowing.

Diet and nutrition: Diet and nutrition are crucial to brain health. Avoid high fructose corn syrup, which is indigestible by the human body. Limit fried foods, and use vegetable oils like avocado and coconut oil if you do fry your food.

Social engagement: Social engagement supports a longer, healthier life. Although it may be difficult to socialize during the pandemic, there are ways to work through it in isolation. Video chat with friends and family over Zoom or FaceTime. Putting these four pieces together to take care of your health, get moving, eat right, keep your mind active and stay connected with others will greatly reduce your risk of developing dementia. Always consult your health care provider before implementing any changes to your lifestyle.

The Alzheimer’s Association is a worldwide voluntary health organization dedicated to Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Its mission is to lead the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia—by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. The organization’s vision is a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia. 

Visit alz.org or call the 24/7 helpline 800-272-3900 for free support and education for yourself and loved ones access to care and the plea for people to be their own advocates for a healthier lifestyle, mitigating the risks of Alzheimer’s And other dementia. Reach out and get help. You are not alone in the journey