Maria Shriver—journalist, author, former First Lady of California and founder of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM)—will be speaking at the new Kensington Redondo Beach assisted living community Oct. 10. 

Shriver and a panel of renowned neuroscientists will discuss brain health, Alzheimer's and caregiving from 6 to 8 p.m. at the facility at 801 S. Pacific Coast Highway. 

The disease that causes problems with thinking, memory and behavior impacts 5.8 million Americans, according to the Alzheimer's Association, and disproportionately affects women. In fact, two-thirds of Alzheimer's diagnoses are women, according to WAM.  

The condition also impacts countless numbers of family members and caregivers, such as Susan Evans, a business owner and Alzheimer's activist who helped to connect Kensington with WAM. 

When Evans’ father was around 75 years old, she began noticing frightening changes in his mental state, including a short-term memory loss, erratic driving and issues with his vocabulary.

It would be two years of increasing symptoms before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. 

“When that diagnosis came, you feel like you were just hit by a truck...so I said, what’s next, what’s the plan?” Evans explained. 

Her family eventually made the difficult decision to place Evans’ father in an assisted living, memory care facility—Kensington Place in Redwood City—where he has been living for the last four years. 

“You just never think you’re going to have to make that decision,” Evans added. “It’s very difficult to process.”

She also became actively involved in the Alzheimer’s community and with the nonprofit WAM, which she linked with Kensington.

The organization is “dedicated to raising awareness about women’s increased risk for Alzheimer’s and to educating the public about lifestyle changes they can make to protect their brain health,” according to its website.

It does so in part by hosting free community educational events such as the one set for Oct. 10 at the Kensington Redondo Beach—an 87,000 square foot center has the capacity to house 120 residents in 94 units and includes assisted living settings and memory care.

“This is the first time that WAM and Kensington have teamed up to raise awareness and educate the community about Alzheimer’s, caregiving and the related issues,” said Erin Mulcahy Stein, executive director for WAM. “We hope it’s not the last.”

The evening will feature cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and entertainment, including a sound bath, as well as the panel discussion with Shriver and neuroscientists Joshua Grill and Freddi Segal-Gidan. 

The goal is to not only talk about Alzheimer’s from a point of expertise, but also what can be done earlier in life to prevent it, according to Sandy Gleeysteen, an executive event producer for WAM who also helps coordinate strategic relationships for organization.

“This isn’t just for people who have the disease and the people who are caring for those with the disease,” Gleeysteen noted. “This is an evening to help inspire people by informing them with cutting edge research about things we should be doing throughout our lives that hopefully will prevent the rest of us from getting this disease.”

“But also really to introduce and interject a real sense of hope,” she added. 

The event is not a fundraiser for WAM, according to Mulcahy Stein.

“We’re not going to ask for donations ...” she said. “Sometimes people are so moved by what they are experiencing, that they want to take some sort of action...but it’s really meant to be a free opportunity for the community.”

As for the choice of venue, Gleeystein added, it is an opportunity to celebrate the brand new Kensington facility, which opened earlier this summer. 

Tanya Walker, a partner, owner and acting executive director at Kensington, said the event is in line with the facility’s mission to care for residents as family.

“Our promise is to care for and love our residents as we do our own,” Walker explained. “It’s important for us... to build awareness, to educate, to inspire…”

“That is a natural pursuit for us. So having the opportunity to partner with WAM gives us the opportunity to build that level of education in the community and be a resource,” she added. 

The facility is expecting several hundred guests that evening and asks that those interested in attending RSVP at www.thekensingtonredondobeach.com, according to Walker.

As for Susan Evans—who owns an LLC called Rivet Revolution dedicated to raising funds for Alzheimer’s foundations, programs and research through sales of special bracelets—the evening will help offer others such as herself get more informed and gain support.

“I’ve heard Maria and, because I had gotten to know the owners at Kensington, I said ‘you guys should be involved in this,’” Evans said. “There is such a need for education in this community.” 

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