With a purple shirt, purple hair extensions, and purple shoelaces, Emily Kuhl, case manager of the Newton Senior Center, sported the official color of Alzheimer’s. On her wrist she wore a stack of bracelets, earned for completing the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
Over 25 Newton residents gathered together in the Newton Senior Center parking lot at 10 a.m. on Sept. 19 for Newton’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, one week before the official walk in Boston. Mayor Ruthanne Fuller and Congressman Jake Auchincloss joined the crowd for the walk.
The group walked about two miles from the Newton Senior Center to Newton City Hall and back.
Kuhl said she has been participating in the walks ever since she learned about her grandmother’s diagnosis with the disease. Kuhl said she was a team captain and led the walk.
Along with her attire, Kuhl also wore her Dementia Friends USA pin with hopes of spreading the Dementia Friendly Massachusetts (DFM) initiative. By teaching people about dementia and how it affects people, DFM hopes to raise awareness about the condition, according to its website.
“So rather than having this dementia fight, [where one] feels isolated and like they can’t be a part of the community, [DFM] trains the community on how to be a resource to people with dementia,” Kuhl said. “So part of the idea of doing the walk is to show that we’re Alzheimer friendly, we’re dementia friendly, and that we’re supportive of everyone.”
Jayne Colino, director of Newton Department of Senior Services participated in her sixth Alzheimer’s walk on Sept. 19. This year she walked for Audrey Cooper, leader and founder of the Newton Senior Center who recently died.
This is the second year that the senior center held its own walk in Newton. Prior to the pandemic, the senior center organized a group to walk with in Boston. Due to COVID-19 the Boston walk was canceled and the center decided to organize a walk in Newton.
“We again probably doubled the size of our team locally, and we were quite the presence walking up and down Walnut Street [last year],” Colino said. “We actually recruited a jogger who joined our team and came back and made an amazing donation the next day.”
The center plans to hold a walk in Newton moving forward, as the local walk attracted a bigger crowd and created more awareness locally, Colino said.
Colino is hopeful that by having a separate walk in Newton, the senior center can raise awareness and greater funds than in previous years. She said she was excited to spread awareness about Alzheimer’s and made sure to offer purple bracelets and flags to every walker.
Colino said the walk is important to her because of the lives that Alzheimer’s touches. She said the statistics about those affected by Alzheimer’s is overwhelming. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in Massachusetts, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
“Everybody takes one more step towards awareness with everybody who walks with us and the more aware people are the more support people will get,” Colino said.
Among the walkers were Newton siblings Maria and Angelo Leporini who walked in support of their mother who recently passed away from the disease. Maria said she began doing the walks when her mother was diagnosed with dementia and continues to walk in hopes of finding a cure.
“I see and have really felt the pain my mom had gone through,” Maria said. “And I just hope that someday they can find a cure.”
Maria and Angelo also highlighted that their mother’s dementia created more unexpected health problems including metastatic cancer.
Also present in the crowd was Newton resident Cynthia Rosenthal who walked for her husband who died six-and-a-half years ago from the disease at a young age.
“This is a whole learning experience for me,” Rosenthal said. “I have a few friends that are constantly asking me questions about Alzheimer’s and who [don’t necessarily understand the disease and how it can affect a person] and I feel like sort of an advocate and an advisor for them which feels good.”
Auchincloss also joined the walk as his grandparents had also suffered from Alzheimer’s, he said.
“It’s important to demonstrate for a disease that oftentimes can feel incredibly isolating and scary that there’s a real community here to support one another,” Auchincloss said. “And also, to continue the momentum for federal action on finding a prevention and a cure. We need to radically increase the amount of federal funding we give to basic research surrounding Alzheimer’s disease.”
Featured Image by Lydia Boer / For The Heights