He knew there is no cure for Alzheimer’s but there was a way to improve his mental fitness. Instead of worrying about memory loss, he fought it off by going to school and earning a university degree.
Alzheimer’s disease is a battle over 6 million Americans are fighting. One of these fighters is 85-year-old Ron Robert.
When Robert was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, he did not find the news shocking. He has two siblings who were diagnosed with the same illness.
It was devastating for him to lose a lot of important things such as his driver’s license but he realized that this was not the end for him.
He had two choices: to fight back or do nothing about it. He chose to fight it off and improve his lifestyle. After such realization, he made a major decision of going to school and earn a university degree, which was on his bucket list.
“I’m not going to just sit on my butt and let it take over my life,” Ron said with determination.
He was anxious to go back to school at first but he was determined to reach his goal. He prepared by starting a walking regime where he walked about five kilometers a day.
He wanted to make sure he would be physically in shape to accomplish numerous school activities.
“I wanted to get a university education,” Robert said. “I knew I was going to be tested and I knew it was long-term. Those two things made me decide university was the way to go.”
Though Robert did not have a university degree, he had a long, fulfilling career as a journalist and a radio broadcaster in Western Canada. He later worked as a political advisor for former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
As he expected, Robert found studying quite challenging. He said he was “learning to learn again” in the first two years of going to school. Though he understood facts, it was difficult for him to memorize names, places, and dates.
“In my first year at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, I went from a D in my first exam to an A in my final exam in Political Science,” shared Robert. “It was a real surprise and satisfying, mainly because of the progress it showed.”
According to Robert’s wife, Catherine Cornelius, her husband worked hard through the course despite his health condition. She also said she believed that studying hard prevented his Alzheimer’s from progressing.
One of Robert’s professors, Jeff Preston, was another witness to Robert’s hard work and progress.
“We have this perception that people with disabilities like Alzheimer’s are wholly incapable. I think what Ron has shown is that all sorts of people can succeed in a university classroom when provided with the right environment and supports to nurture success,” Preston said.
After three years of perseverance, Robert finally finished his bachelor’s degree at King’s University College in Ontario. His family, teachers, and peers were all proud of what he had accomplished.
“When I went across the stage, and as I’m getting my diploma, the kids all stood up and yelled and clapped,” Robert recalled. “I had to hold back the tears. It was something else, just wonderful.”
Robert is planning to pursue a master’s degree and keep finding ways how to improve his mental health and live his life to the fullest.
He also hopes to spread more awareness and information about Alzheimer’s disease. He wants people to know that older people can still contribute to and participate in the community.
For people with Alzheimer’s like him, Robert has one piece of advice: “A dementia diagnosis doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Life goes on; make the most of it.”
Watch this video to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease: