08 Sep 2022
HEIDI DOUGLASS | email@example.com
When PJ Lane was given the opportunity to represent a dementia research Centre 10 years ago, the timing couldn’t have been more coincidental.
The date he was being asked to stand on the podium at the launch of UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) was the exact same date that his TV legend father, Don Lane, had passed away just three years earlier from Alzheimer’s disease.
For the last decade PJ’s dedication to his Ambassador role for medial research has been unwavering.
“There has been no hesitation to stay committed,” says Lane.
I want a future where people don’t lose their Dad the way I did.
Despite losing his father to Alzheimer’s disease in 2007, PJ still has a solid bank of memories of him – especially his big personality. According to PJ everyone who met him always got the real Don Lane.
“He was absolutely the same personality off the screen as he was on the screen, and that enthusiasm and energy was infectious.”
PJ says that over the decade he has learnt a great deal about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, which research indicates is triggered not only by genetics but also by lifestyle factors.
A key risk factor for dementia is lack of physical activity, which has PJ gearing up to run his first ever Half Marathon on 18 September in the Sydney Running Festival.
PJ says the training has been unexpectedly challenging, but he’s excited to hit the iconic 21km course on Sunday.
Of his reasons for running, he is sentimental and progressive. “Although everything I do in this space is a tribute to my Dad, I’ve also become very conscious of generations to come."
“I now have a beautiful daughter and I want the brightest future possible for her. That includes her late life, which drives me to do what I can to raise understanding about the importance of quality medical research, and CHeBA has my full support."
When Don Lane first told his son that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, PJ said he had no real understanding of the impact it was going to have on their lives.
He watched his father start to have difficulty with simple things, like remembering to put a seatbelt on, until eventually he stopped eating.
“Witnessing the decline of my father was a heartbreaking experience. It affected so many of our friends and family. During the various stages we all watched someone so sharp, vibrant and full of life gradually lose not just his ability to remember the names of loved ones but also his ability to tell his stories and follow a conversation.”
Reflecting on that time is painful, but we have no choice but to look forward and do what we can to make a difference while we are here.
"I’m at a point in my life that I’m very motivated to do everything I can to reduce my own risk of dementia.”
PJ, who is currently studying a Masters of high Performance Sport, does this firstly by exercising regularly.
“I have always been very active with basketball, weight training and running. Exercise has always been a habit."
PJ has never smoked, looks after his diet by eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and healthy fats, manages his weight and challenges his brain.
“I also prioritise social interaction, which is an important factor in brain health,” says PJ.
“I’m excited by the prospect that medical research can show early markers of memory decline so that brain disease can be detected before the onset of Alzheimer’s."
“I really enjoy working with the wonderful team at CHeBA. With the brilliant scientific minds of Henry Brodaty and Perminder Sachdev leading the way to research healthier brain ageing, it has been a wonderful relationship and a Centre I’m extremely proud to support."
“I glean much reward from the knowledge that I’m helping to have some impact on the future,” says PJ.