Some of his movie titles could almost be billboards about the feelings of having a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease – The Longest Ride, Fury, Trouble with the Curve, The Fate of the Furious.
But for actor Scott Eastwood, raising awareness for Alzheimer’s disease is no act, it is personal.
Eastwood's mission is to provide hope and help to families affected by this neurodegenerative disease in a new campaign – LearnAboutAlz.com – launching September 21 which is World Alzheimer’s Day.
During our interview he discussed his memories about a grandmother who lost hers to Alzheimer’s. Although she passed away more than 20 years ago, Eastwood, who was about 10 at the time, mostly remembers his mother struggling to care for her mother while raising two small children. It was his mom’s Sandwich Generation caregiving journey that fuels Eastwood’s passion to support the 44 million families worldwide facing a disease that today has no long-term effective treatments to slow the disease, no definitive answer on prevention and no cure.
“My grandmother started forgetting where she was or where she was supposed to be and eventually did not recognize us which was tough to understand as a young kid but even tougher for my mom watching her mom fade away,” Eastwood told me.
Supporting the 16 million Alzheimer’s family caregivers in the U.S. is a big reason Eastwood got involved in the new campaign launched by Allergan along with partners including the Alzheimer’s Association, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and the Caregiver Action Network (CAN). He says the campaign’s focus is to give caregivers a “roadmap of information and resources to help them navigate Alzheimer’s.”
Using his powerful social media reach – 3 million followers on Instagram and 216,000 followers on Twitter – will be part of the actor’s campaign commitment to both provide help and support for Alzheimer’s families but also to educate his fellow millennials about a disease that will be the health care epidemic of their future.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association 2018 Facts & Figures Report, 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease today. By 2050, that number will almost triple to 14 million. Given the longevity bonus our society is experiencing with many people now living into their 90s and 100s, by 2050 millennials will be in the bullseye of caregiving – ages 54-69 – and facing a worldwide Alzheimer’s crisis. Even today, one-third of all millennials are or have been family caregivers according to a recent study by Associated Press-NORC Center Public Affairs Research and the SCAN Foundation.
For Eastwood, adding this new campaign to his Alzheimer’s poster boy portfolio made sense since he has been involved in other Alzheimer’s events such as Seth Rogen and Lauren Miller Rogen’s Hilarity for Charity organization. The comedy-themed fundraisers encourage celebrities and other attendees to “Kick Alz in the Ballz,” where the organization’s focus is on engaging millennials and college campuses in understanding Alzheimer’s. One of the recent Halloween events had Eastwood dressing up as that other Eastwood – dad Clint – from the famous 1960s spaghetti western film, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.
And it is his father who has instilled in him a lifestyle mantra that may be a key to preventing Alzheimer’s. Maintaining an active lifestyle, eating a healthy diet, staying social and engaged in purposeful pursuits are being analyzed by researchers as potential prescriptions for avoiding dementia in later life.
At age 88, Clint Eastwood is a Hollywood icon who still stars in and directs acclaimed movies. And while there is no nepotism between father and son (Clint makes Scott audition for roles in his films, such as Invictus and Gran Torino, not all of which Scott gets such as not being cast in American Sniper), the family resemblance in this Instagram post is like looking at two generations of the same man and also shows a strong bond between the two.
“My dad always said, ‘healthy body, healthy brain.’ He was always athletic and instilled that love in me for staying fit, getting out there and enjoying life,” shared Eastwood.
Beyond being a doppelganger for his dad, the younger Eastwood has taken Clint’s advice when it comes to lifestyle. Scott’s Instagram is loaded with images from cliff diving in Tahiti, surfing in Japan, deep sea fishing off the coast of Mexico and piloting a helicopter from his home base in San Diego, California to auditions and meetings in Los Angeles. Or as his Twitter motto says, “Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.” (courtesy of the classic film The Shawshank Redemption).
As we end our interview, Eastwood reiterates that Alzheimer’s “can happen at any age” and he is right.
Scientists now know that most people have Alzheimer’s 10-15 years before they are diagnosed and even some people in their 30s, 40s and 50s are facing this devastating disease. In addition, with younger generations such as millennials stepping into the role of caregiver, Alzheimer’s is no longer just affecting older Americans.
Eastwood sees his role in this picture very clearly: share his family’s story, give his caregiving audience inspiration and hope, and look forward to a Hollywood ending where we can find an Alzheimer’s cure.
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