The Tahliya Street in the capital was crowded with men, women and children when 10,000 balloons were released into the air to mark the World Alzheimer’s Day in the Kingdom on Thursday evening.
The event dubbed “Purple Sky” was organized by the Saudi Alzheimer’s Disease Association (SADA) and aimed to attract the attention of all sections of society and demonstrate their solidarity with Alzheimer's patients.
The balloon launch was part of SADA’s four-week national campaign, which began Wednesday with the participation of a number of health, social and charity organizations. More than a dozen government and private universities and charity societies joined the campaign, which runs through Sept. 30.
SADA Vice Chairperson Princess Madawi bint Muhammed bin Abdullah bin Abdulrahman, who was present at the Purple Sky program, said the campaign was an extension to SADA’s awareness, health and social plans. She added that the most important of these was the opening of outpatient clinics for Alzheimer's patients in a number of government hospitals.
The campaign also came amid calls for inclusion of Alzheimer's patients in the health insurance system and the launching of the national record and database for the disease, she noted.
Through the awareness program, she said the society wants to attract the attention of people on this issue on the occasion of the World Alzheimer’s Day, the princess said.
Interior Minister Prince Ahmed is the honorary chairman of SADA, while Prince Saud bin Khaled bin Abdullah bin Abdulrahman, officiates as its chairman.
The chief executive officer of the society, Deemah Al-Rais, told Arab News the program was organized with a team of 300 volunteers from various organizations and educational institutions. She said the society was happy that people came in their hundreds to respect their elders.
“The campaign was the result of a well-prepared plan in line with SADA’s vision, objectives and message to seek support from the community for the elders,” Al-Rais said, pointing out that the Purple Sky program is the brainchild of Sarah Al-Rasheed, SADA’s health educator.
Al-Rais recalled that several contracts and agreements were worked out between SADA and strategic commercial partners to organize the Kingdom's awareness program about the disease, she added.
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder named after German physician Alois Alzheimer who first identified it in 1906. Scientists have learned a great deal about Alzheimer’s disease in the century since then.
Alzheimer’s gets worse over time and can be fatal. Today it is the sixth-leading cause of death in the world. It is the most common form of dementia, a general term for the loss of memory and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. The disease accounts for 50 to 70 percent of dementia cases. Other types of dementia include vascular dementia, mixed dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontobodyoral dementia.
Sarah Al-Rasheed said that she proposed the Purple Sky program since she wanted the whole Kingdom to know the nature of Alzheimer’s disease.
“We have succeeded in creating an impact in the minds of the people today, since they responded to our call generously,” Al-Rasheed said. She pointed out that the purple is the color associated with the Alzheimer’s disease throughout the world and today we have introduced the same theme and color among the members of the public throughout the Kingdom.
“SADA is dedicated to spread our message throughout the country, that Alzheimer's is a disease and not part of aging. It wants people with the disease to be respected by the community,” Al-Rasheed said.
Karam Hamweyah, a fifth year medical student at Alfaisal University in Riyadh and leader of the volunteer team, told Arab News the program was designed to awaken the public about the importance of the Alzheimer’s disease.
SADA announced an international prize for scientific research in Alzheimer’s disease, named after Prince Sultan, at the opening of the First International Conference on Alzheimer’s here recently.
The organization received the Chaillot Award from the European Union for its continued efforts to spread awareness about Alzheimer's in the Saudi society and to improve health and living standards of Alzheimer’s patients.
The campaign was launched at King Saud Medical City (KSMC).
A select group of academics, physicians specialized in brain and nerve diseases and members of the medical committee of the SADA will address the public gatherings under SADA’s program during the next two weeks .