During an awareness event Tuesday on World Alzheimer’s Day, advocates said the disease is far more prevalent in Brownsville and the Rio Grande Valley than many people think, even to the point that some deny Alzheimer’s is common among the city’s Hispanic residents.
The event took place at the Brownsville Events Center, put on by the Alzheimer’s Association in partnership with Healthy Communities of Brownsville, UTRGV School of Medicine and the UTRGV College of Health Professions. Organizers and speakers decried the lack of a senior citizens center in Brownsville where older residents could meet and interact, thus helping to ward off Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia through social interaction.
Dr. Gladys Maestre, professor of neuroscience at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, said when she meets Rio Grande Valley residents, many say Alzheimer’s is not a big problem in the Valley, while at the same time whispering about an older aunt, uncle or grandparent who has dementia.
Actually, Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely than Whites to have dementia but more research is needed to understand why, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Recently UTRGV and The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, working in close collaboration, were announced as a new National Institute on Aging (NIA)-designated Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC).
The South Texas partners are joining 32 other centers in the national network, established by the NIA in 1984 to promote research collaboration, encourage data sharing and open science, and offer information and clinical trials for patients and families affected by Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
The NIA is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and ADRCs are NIH Centers of Excellence. No other Texas institution or consortium is currently an ADRC.
Meanwhile, Maestre, Healthy Communities of Brownsville and others are advocating for a community senior center in Brownsville “where seniors can come in any time and we would have programs like exercise and occupational therapy … where people can participate,” she said.
“In order to prevent Alzheimer’s you need to be physically active, mentally active and emotionally active. You cannot do that on your own. You need people,” Maestre said.
Rose Timmer of Healthy Communities of Brownsville has been advocating for such a center for years.
Additional information about Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia is available at alz.org.