I’ve been in Dublin since Monday morning and thus far the experience has been puuurfect. For the first four days I stayed with an 85 year old woman named Phil in a bayside home just outside of the city (this is the view from outside her front step) .
Staying with Phil was an incredibly fitting way to begin my international adventure studying Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and aging issues. At age 85, Phil manages a large home, engages in stimulating conversation, and has a heart so big it almost brings tears to your eyes. After days of meetings addressing Alzheimer’s disease and the stigmas against aging within Ireland it was refreshing, to say the least, to stay with a woman who defied many of the stereotypes associated with her age.
The majority of my formal meetings in Ireland have been completed. Thanks to the Bank Holiday some of my original contacts have taken off for the majority of August. While it was somewhat disappointing to learn that many would be gone for the month, I am encouraged because many of Ireland’s leading Alzheimer’s and dementia workers will be attending, if not speaking at, the annual Alzheimer’s Europe Conference in Vienna this October. In my next post, I will likely detail the findings from my interviews with Care Alliance Ireland, Alzheimer’s Society Ireland, and the Living with Dementia Programme based out of Trinity College. Before that post though I’ve got over 300 pages worth of publications to read through before I’ll feel comfortable synthesizing the information.
I’m finding my informal research to be particularly beneficial. When telling strangers the purpose of my travel, I’ve gotten a spectrum of responses from an emotional pat on the hand to a confused look. I’m fairly certain I spoke with a man at the local coffee shop I’ve been frequenting (and making friends with the workers) who was suffering from some form of dementia himself. The man detailed his significant and increasing memory loss but stated that he didn’t believe Alzheimer’s to be a real disease. Rather, to him, significant memory loss was just a natural effect of aging. It was more than discouraging to hear this man speak. Unfortunately, this experience matched what I was told to expect from my various contacts: many within Ireland either think that Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are just normal outcomes of aging or believe that there is no difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
I’ve done my fair share of walking about since I’ve been here. After one of my meetings, my contact directed me to a library that was featuring a large collection of Islamic and Christian books. The collection was incredible and the library was located just next to the Dublin Castle (pictured here)
. It rains pretty frequently here and when I’m about to get stuck in a rain storm I usually duck into a coffee shop and grab some tea or head to a pub to grab a pint of beer. On one occasion Phil, the woman mentioned above, directed me to grab a pint at the local castle in Clontarf, Dublin. I was quite tired but when an 85 year old woman tells you to go grab a pint of beer at a castle, you go grab a pint of beer. Hell, when anyone tells you to grab a pint at a castle you go. This is the castle:
On my last full day with Phil, her granddaughter took me to a small ocean town called Howth to sightsee. It was just beautiful and it was so hard to believe that you could get to such a peaceful place just 20 minutes outside the city. The picture here doesn’t do it justice but regardless, it was pretty cool:
I’m now living in a hostel located within the city centre and in close walking distance to my favorite little coffee shop. I imagine I’ll have a few stories from my experiences in the hostel and in the city centre.