According to an annual report published by the Alzheimer’s Association, 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, with people of color making up the bulk of those affected. The Dementia Spotlight Foundation is dedicated to fighting the disease by educating, supporting and providing resources to patients and their families.
On Friday, February 4, at the Buckhead Theatre, the Foundation is hosting a benefit concert to help families and people with dementia-related illnesses. The Dementia Spotlight Foundation’s Executive Director, Whitney Oeltmann, and their Director of Development and Special Events, Vince Albert Zangaro, joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom with one of Friday’s performers, Speech from the Grammy-winning band Arrested Development.
Whitney Oeltmann started their conversation by explaining the history of the Foundation. “We were founded in 2017 following my father’s diagnosis at the age of 65,” Oeltmann said. Following her diagnosis and our search for resources to help with her care…my mom and I just couldn’t find what we needed. This is why we created the Foundation.
When Zangaro’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 62, Zangaro was 29. The budding young musician took care of his father and quickly felt overwhelmed. “I was a bit frustrated with the lack of support that existed for families with dementia and people with dementia, and so it was kind of a natural ability for me to pull together a group of groups and start a festival to try to help people get respite care at home and raise awareness about Alzheimer’s and dementia-related illnesses,” Zangaro said.
Now, the Alzheimer’s Music Fest will be enjoying its ninth year of performances in Atlanta. The critically acclaimed hip-hop alchemists Arrested Development share the stage with co-headliners Drivin’ and Cryin’ and Cracker, as well as Zangaro and others. For the uninitiated, Speech described Arrested Development as “a mindful hip-hop group”. He continued, “We tend to tackle issues like homelessness, Afrocentric ideas and philosophies, and somehow it all still feels very fun and lighthearted.”
The speech expressed his sense of personal resonance with the cause and acknowledged the unique potential of artists to raise awareness. “Through music, a lot of people pay attention. They turn their heads towards an issue, or whatever we’re trying to bring to light, and no pun intended,” he said. “The effects of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia affect black people here in this country in a higher ratio than other races, and we really want people to feel empowered. So this is a great opportunity to do that. .
Other resources provided by the Dementia Spotlight Foundation include an innovative approach to community engagement for people living with dementia: ‘Connection Cafes’. “A lot of people know them as memory cafes,” Oeltmann said. “It’s really, really a fun and wonderful time for a caregiver and their person to be together and socialize. We learned that socializing is such an important part of this disease, something you can keep doing.
More information about the Alzheimer Music Festival this Friday, February 4 at the Buckhead Theater, can be found at dementiaspotlightfoundation.org/amf.
Speech will also host WABE’s new music series, “Sounds like ATL” at City Winery on February 8 at 8 p.m. Tickets and more information can be found here.