Alzheimer's patient, Onset resident raises funds, awareness for those with the disease

May 14, 2018

When Tim Benson heard his diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s seven years ago, he felt alone, unsure of what to do next.

“It was a difficult time in my life,” said the semi-retired minister and longtime Onset resident. “I was down and out, kind of, but was steered into an Alzheimer’s support group around that time.”

Benson, now 69, and his wife Lori are making the most of their golden years, leading active lives and working around the symptoms.

Recently, the Bensons participated in the annual HopeHealth Walk for Alzheimer’s on May 6. Benson raised $2,600 for Alzheimer’s research and awareness. He said he hopes others will find the support he did.

The group he joined meets in the Mashpee Senior Center. Like the walk, the group started small and has grown over the years. Tim meets others with the disease and Lori shares her experiences with fellow caregivers.

“We give tips to each other and provide emotional support,” he said. “It’s very important to us. If that group wasn’t there, my life would be much more difficult.”

Benson and his wife have participated in the walk for the past four years. He said he was driven in part by wanting to help others in his situation.

“It’s the sixth leading cause of death of Americans,” said Benson. “One in nine people over the age of 65 have the disease.”

Benson said he’s been blessed because his symptoms, which include speech and short term memory problems, are manageable. He’s still fairly independent and can walk to downtown Onset for errands. For longer trips, when his wife isn’t available, he makes use of GATRA’s Dial-A-Ride program.

Benson has lived in Onset since 1975, the same year he was ordained as a minister. He still attends service at the United Church of Christ, but now it’s mostly as a parishioner. He does perform occasional duties for the church, however. He also volunteers for the Onset Blues Festival and at the National Marine Life Center in Bourne.

The couple has three adult children and two grandchildren, 3 and 1 years old. The youngest of the adult children just graduated from Cornell University this past weekend. Benson and his wife attended the graduation.

He said he does worry about his children, since there is a genetic component to Alzheimer’s. It’s all the more reason he participates in the walk and raises funds.

“I worry about my children and grandchildren,” he said. “They could suffer this disease. That’s a great motivator for me to be supportive of the HopeHealth Walk.”