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21 September 1994: World Alzheimer's Day is launched

The public awareness stand set up by the local Alzheimer's association AFA in Malaga on 21 September 2017.
The public awareness stand set up by the local Alzheimer's association AFA in Malaga on 21 September 2017. / F. ACEVEDO
  • what happened today?

  • That day saw the opening of the Alzheimer's Disease International conference in Edinburgh, on the 15th anniversary of the organisation

World Alzheimer's Day has been celebrated on 21 September since 1994. The awareness day was launched at the opening of the annual Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) conference (held on that date in 1994 in Edinburgh) to mark the tenth anniversary of the organisation. In 2012 the whole of September was declared Alzheimer's Month "to enable associations worldwide to extend the reach of their awareness programmes over a longer period of time", explains ADI on its website.

ADI is a London-based umbrella organisation that unites and empowers 94 Alzheimer's associations around the world and is officially linked with the World Health Organisation.

As with other international awareness days and months, ADI says that the initiative serves to unite opinion leaders, people with dementia, their carers and families, medical professionals, researchers and the media from all around the world.

"Having a globally coordinated awareness sends a strong message to governments and policy makers alerting them of the fact that dementia is a serious health issue which will have serious implications on services and health systems around the world as the world's population grows older. In addition, by focusing on a different message each year, the month can be used to educate and challenge people's misconceptions about dementia," says ADI.

The theme for this year's Alzheimer's Day and Month is Every Three Seconds (the frequency with which someone in the world develops dementia) to bring home the global impact of dementia.

In its World Alzheimer Report published in 2016 ADI estimated that that there were 46.8 million people worldwide living with dementia in 2015 and that this number would reach 131.5 million in 2050. The new 2018 World Alzheimer Report is due to be launched today.

The chronic neurodegenerative disease named after German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer, who identified the first case in 1901, is the cause of between 60 and 70 per cent of all cases of dementia, according to the WHO.

Symptoms of dementia include loss of memory, difficulty in finding the right words or understanding what people are saying, difficulty in performing previously routine tasks and personality and mood changes, explains ADI.

While the disease mainly affects older people there are cases of individuals under the age of 65 developing young onset dementia.

One of the main aims of World Alzheimer's Day and Month is to fight the stigmatisation and misinformation that surround dementia through greater awareness.

Today, 21 September, is the chance for Alzheimer's associations around the world to challenge those myths and misconceptions through events that involve the entire community.