Inspiring and inspired mature student and advocate for Living with Alzheimer's
September 14, 2018
Among the new students converging on King’s campus is Ron Robert. Every student is unique but what makes Robert stand out is that he is in his 80’s and is living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Robert says he expects to be more than just a student as he attends King’s. “I want to do something in return. I enjoy being fully a part of what I do,” he says. While attending Wilfred Laurier University last year, Robert helped students as part of study and discussion groups. “I enjoyed bringing the shy (students) out of their shells,” he says.
“I love this age group,” Robert says, noting in his experience students are often “very kind and caring” and are the opposite of how they are often portrayed.
The Political Science course is a natural for Robert. He covered the British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan provincial legislatures and the House of Commons during a 20-year career as a radio and television journalist. He worked with politicians from Ralph Klein and René Lévesque to Tommy Douglas and then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (for whom he ran the “Western desk”, focusing on matters concerning of Canada’s Prairie Provinces).
The idea to take Disability Studies came from a desire to learn about Alzheimer’s disease, which Robert was diagnosed with approximately six years ago. He has since become a public speaker on the topic. After meeting him, Bruce Wray, Communications Manager for the Alzheimer Society London and Middlesex, says “Ron is an inspiration, someone who leaves you feeling positive and hopeful by the life he leads and the example he sets. He rises above the challenges (like aging and dementia) that a life throws at you, living it fully with dignity - the way most of us can only hope to live.” This year, Robert will be a part of a national media campaign for Alzheimer’s Canada. A film crew was recently on campus to photograph him.
“I don’t feel sorry for myself,” Robert says, having worked with young people who are blind yet impressed him with their courage.
“You choose to be a victim or you do something about it,” Robert says. What Robert decided to do was to go back to school as a way to keep his mind sharp. Last year, he enrolled at Laurier as a first-year political science student.
For the fall of 2018, however, he comes to King’s because it is closer to his home in London. He also credits Paul Wilton, Admissions and Liaison officer, for being accommodating and kind when Robert was shown around campus.
“He’s not the typical way you think of an angel but he’s an angel,” Robert says of Wilton, adding “It’s a great way to start the relationship between me and the university.”
The relationship was strengthened due to the aid Robert has received from Accessibility Services.
“The accessibility is fantastic. King’s has a great (Accessibility Services) department,” Robert says. “I certainly couldn't do it without the aid of the accessibility and they do it so willingly, it's wonderful.”
Joanna Bedggood, Manager of Student Wellness, reports last year over 500 students used Accessibility Services at King’s, including those with temporary or permanent disabilities which can be physical, mental health, learning, sensory or other. She explains students work with accessibility counsellors to develop an individualized accommodation plan.
“The goal of accommodations is to create a level playing field. Our team at Accessibility Services at King’s is happy to meet with any students who have questions about these services,” Bedggood says.
Accessibility Services is located in Wemple 151. All services are confidential.