An inspiring story of Ron Robert, a man who pursued a degree at King’s University College in London, Ontario, after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease seven years ago. The disease, for which there is currently no cure, affects close to 6 million people in the US alone and is expected to increase to 13 million by 2050. Robert believed that pursuing a course to keep his mind active could help him fight the disease, and last fall, he graduated from the university.
Robert’s convocation ceremony was a moment he would never forget, as he walked across the stage and received his diploma, he was cheered on by his fellow students. “When I went across the stage, and as I’m getting my diploma, the kids all stood up and yelled and clapped,” he recalled. “I had to hold back the tears. It was something else, just wonderful.” Robert believes that the regular mental challenges he went through during his studies may have helped slow the deterioration of his condition.
Before being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Robert was a former radio broadcaster and journalist in Western Canada. He became a political advisor to former prime minister Pierre Trudeau but never got the chance to attend university. “I wanted to get a university education,” he 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.” Despite his condition worsening, Robert persevered and completed his degree.
“I want to cross that stage with some of those great, bright young adults.”— Inspired Living (@InspiredLiv) January 8, 2019
Once Ron Robert was diagnosed with #Alzheimers, he made a goal to enroll into a university and graduate helping keep his mind healthy and active. #mindovermatter #seniorliving #dementia https://t.co/b4lHzruZBv
It was not an easy journey for Robert to start studying again. In the first two years of classes, he had to “learn to learn again.” It was a challenge for him to remember names, dates, and places, even though he understood the facts. Sometimes during tests, when he was stuck, his teachers would say one or two keywords, “and that’s all I needed.” In addition to studying, Robert also built friendships with students who were much younger than him. “Sometimes they would come to me with their problems because I would look like the old grandfather on the campus, I guess, and they felt comfortable speaking to me,” he said.
When I got into university it is quite delightful being among the young people and the professors. “It has triggered so many memories.” Ron Robert living his life with #Alzheimers by going to school. @LondonMorning @JHazlewoodCBC @univcan @AlzCanada pic.twitter.com/YuYrxNMs2R— King’s at Western (@KingsAtWestern) January 8, 2019
Robert’s achievement is a testament to the fact that people with disabilities like Alzheimer’s are not wholly incapable. Jeff Preston, one of his professors, said he is “thrilled” by Robert’s achievement. “I think Ron is the living embodiment of the phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, or perhaps, don’t assume someone cannot [do something] simply because of a diagnosis,” said Preston.
85-year-old Ron Robert graduated from @KingsAtWestern despite being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.— White Coat Black Art (@cbcwhitecoat) March 4, 2023
Ron now coaches health professionals on empathy.
He offers valuable insight on how to deal with this pervasive disease. @NightShiftMD
Listen: https://t.co/MW6heU0KUu Watch:⬇️ pic.twitter.com/8fMTj87HUC
“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.”