By Kelly Zwicker
Every individual who experiences Alzheimer’s has a unique story. Shantel Thilman has used her experience as a young caregiver and her passion for living a healthy lifestyle to join the fight against Alzheimer’s.
A self-starter and globetrotter, Shantel’s active lifestyle has lead her to become an advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association. Her hobbies fit well with The Longest Day, a spring team event held on the longest day of the year to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s disease. This event encourages individuals to utilize their passions to personally contribute to the cause and inspire the community as a whole to get creative with fundraising. Participants put together teams to fundraise for the cause to do anything from playing board games to Zumbathons to raise funds.
Shantel plans to bike to solo from Alaska to the Mexico border, raising funds along the way. Shantel’s special relationship and time spent caring for her grandfather, Jan have been her inspiration.She plans to raise $40,000 will help people like Jan, caregivers and advance research for Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Shantel hopes her biking trip, being a physical journey, will also promote brain health as a lifelong priority. “One of the reasons I am doing this whole thing is for prevention promotion” Shantel explains, “getting it out there that Alzheimer’s doesn’t have to be a thing that happens when we get old. People need to stop thinking that. We don’t have to succumb to Alzheimer’s” she continues “there are things we can do to help ourselves now.”
The Alzheimer’s Association encourages people to use the 10 Ways to Love Your Brain and make healthy lifestyle changes for healthier living. The first tip, to “Break a Sweat” encourages people to practice regular cardiovascular activity to increase heart rate and blood flow to the brain and body. Shantel’s passion for biking keeps her physically active, thus aiding her brain health with a healthy heart. Another very distinct connection is brain and mental health. Depression and other mental health conditions show additional signs of cognitive decline, therefore looking after one’s mental state is essential for proper prevention. Shantel likes to practice meditation and yoga to increase her mind and body connection, which in turn decreases her stress levels.
The event, as well as Shantel’s mindset, focus on long term health, which is applicable to everyone. Shantel and others like her are fighting the perception that Alzheimer’s is a disease that only affects older generations. “I want to do it to raise awareness and funding for the Alzheimer’s Association” she says, “it is my way of contributing to my grandpa as well as the younger generations and people nowadays knowing that there are preventative measures we can take in health and nutrition.” Alzheimer’s and dementia do not just affect older generations, individuals such as Shantel are passionate about getting their generation involved as well.
With her yoga practices, meditation commitment and planned biking fundraiser that begins on the Summer Solstice, Shantel is inspiring a generation to get involved.
Join her today at alz.org/thelongestday.