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finding a cure for that most insidious disease

by bette dewing

why am i crying, i wondered, as i read juliet macur's new york times story, "sensing his own mortality," about george steinbrenner.

more important to me than the avalanche coverage given yankee baseball owner george steinbrenner's dying was how at 74, he spoke "with candor about regrets, death and family, how old age really stinks? and his fear of dying." he cried several times, which also made the young reporter quite teary.

"suddenly, he was not the most feared owner in sports but someone's father or grandfather coming to terms with the end of life."

his biggest frustration was with how he was beginning to have difficulty remembering names and faces.

i cried, because even this man with all of his wealth and power couldn't be saved from his mind fading away into the abyss. i cried because there is no known cure for alzheimer's and there is even a sort of shame attached to this most grievous disorder that affects many of the 80-plus population.

i am almost too sad to cry over the unexpected leukemia-related death of gerontologist, dr. robert butler, who likely did more than anyone to bring what i call "brain failure" out of the closet and make it a national and world-wide priority to overcome.

you can do your part to help fight this insidious disease by backing both the alzheimer association and the international longevity center ?usa which dr. butler founded and headed along with its executive director, everette e. dennis.

as my june 24 column noted, what a blessing to be one of 20 journalists taking part in the age boom academy's five day "immersion seminar on aging and longevity issues," hosted by dr. butler at the international longevity center. the various aging field experts' virtual tsunami of aging and longevity material was made more interactive by being shared around a conference table.

but even unaware of his illness, i would have liked to have heard more from dr. butler or "bob" as he was affectionately called.

his family requests that any contributions be made to ilcenter- usa at 60 e. 86th st. new york, n.y., 10028. and i also suggest that looking after our vulnerable, often alone and elder neighbors, especially in this relentlessly hot summer, is a way to honor bob, and also remember everette and the dedicated ilc staff who miss him so deeply.

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