The Alzheimer’s Association has selected Ypsilanti resident Gary Gibson to serve on its 2020-2021 Alzheimer’s Association National Early-Stage Advisory Group (ESAG). Gibson is one of eight individuals chosen to serve on the group, which helps raise awareness of Alzheimer’s and other dementia by sharing their personal insights and experiences of living with dementia with media and other audiences across the country.
More than 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, including 190,000 in Michigan. ESAG members play an important role in giving voice to those living with the disease and advocate for core Alzheimer’s Association efforts, including increasing concern and awareness of the disease, enhancing care and support programs for individuals and families, advancing public policy initiatives, and championing support for disease research.
“Early-stage advisors play a vital role in Alzheimer’s Association advocacy efforts,” said Jennifer Lepard, Alzheimer’s Association president and CEO. “They bring a unique perspective that not only informs our work, but also inspires others living with the disease to engage in efforts that can make a difference for all those impacted.”
was chosen from more than 50 applicants across the country. A former IT software developer, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2018 at age 68, just two years into his retirement.
“I was dumbfounded,” Gary said of his diagnosis. “I felt normal and I had no idea others were seeing things that I didn’t.”
Technology, daily exercise and changes in his daily responsibilities are helping Gary live well following his diagnosis. He and his wife, Ellen, have synchronized their online calendars and keep shopping and to-do lists on their phones. Gary uses a navigation app to keep him on track when driving and has already registered for a bus pass and rideshare services for when he can no longer drive. He visits the gym nearly every day and notes a significant improvement in how he feels after doing so. Acknowledging changes in his executive functioning, he has turned over some day-to-day household responsibilities, including paying bills and other financial matters, to Ellen.
As a member of the 2020-2021 National Early Stage Advisory Group, Gary wants to promote the importance and benefits of early detection and diagnosis.
“With early detection, you can participate in the design of your life going forward,” said Gary, who with Ellen has five adult children and 11 grandchildren. “You can live well with support. I regret waiting as long as I did to speak to my doctor, but thankfully I did early enough to make a difference.”
Formed in 2006, the national ESAG group and its advisors have helped to secure the addition of younger-onset Alzheimer’s to the Social Security Administration’s Compassionate Allowance Initiative, giving those with the disease access to certain social security benefits. They also participated in grassroots advocacy efforts supporting the establishment of the first national plan to address the Alzheimer's epidemic. ESAG members also advocate for increased research funding and provide input to the Association about programs and materials designed to meet the growing needs of early-stage individuals.
The Alzheimer's Association leads 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. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's and all other dementia.™ For more information, visit www.alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.