Jane Seymour Keynote Speaker at Upcoming Alzheimer’s Event

By Joanne A Calitri   |   April 18, 2023
Jane Seymour is the keynote speaker at the upcoming Alzheimer’s Women’s Initiative Inspire luncheon (Courtesy photo)

The Alzheimer’s Association California Central Coast Chapter is hosting their annual Women’s Initiative Inspire luncheon on April 26 at the Hilton Beachfront Resort. Tickets are selling fast, as Emmy and Golden Globe winning actress Jane Seymour is the keynote speaker.

When I spoke with Katina Zaninovich, Board Chair and Alzheimer’s Women’s Initiative Committee Chair, about the upcoming luncheon she said, “We are thrilled to have Jane Seymour as our keynote speaker. She understands this disease on a personal level and has dedicated her professional abilities to spreading the word about education and the need for research. She walks the walk when it comes to fighting for a world without Alzheimer’s. Our chapter provides free care consultations, support groups, and education classes for individuals and families affected by dementia throughout the CA Central Coast. We have a 24/7 Helpline (800 272 3900) to offer confidential support and information. In this fiscal year, our chapter has served 2,000 families since July 2022. The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research, and currently we have invested $320 million in more than 1,000 projects in 54 countries, spanning six continents!”

The luncheon event will honor Gerd Jordano and Anne Towbes as Founding Members of the Alzheimer’s Women’s Initiative (AWI). A second keynote speaker is Alzheimer’s Association Senior Director of Scientific Programs and Outreach, Claire Sexton, PhD, who will present on lifestyle changes that may reduce the risk of dementia, as well as research and new treatments.

Event Committee members are Sue Adams, Linda Alderman, Leigh Cashman, Carole East, Carol Fell, Gabriella Garcia, Rhonda Henderson, Penny Jenkins, Lauren Katz, Roseanne Masi Marquis, Robin Sonner, Betsy Turner, and Mary Werft. Funds raised by the Inspire Luncheon further the Alzheimer’s Association’s mission of ending Alzheimer’s and related dementia by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. 

How did Jane Seymour come to speak at the event? “As we were searching for a celebrity speaker,” Zaninovich explains, “we recalled the VNA PHorum event with Jane Seymour and her film about Glen Campbell. Our AWI committee member Leigh Cashman contacted Dr. Bordofsky who is the medical director of VNA Health and he put us in touch with Lailan McGrath, the VNA Health Foundation Director. It just so happens she is a personal friend of Jane’s, and so she made the connection for us!!!” 

I interviewed Ms. Seymour via Zoom as she was in Dublin at the time, and brought in Cashman to join:

Q. Is being a spokesperson on dementia a passion project for you?

A. Absolutely. I’ve had family members who’ve had Alzheimer’s and I’ve seen it up close. I had a character I played in Ruby’s Choice who had it. The script was written by a man who’s been working in that field for 30 years, and everyone who works in care homes and assisted living who has seen the film has said this is literally something every caregiver should watch. It’s an uplifting film with a lot of humor, but it very clearly shows you what happens to the person with Alzheimer’s, and to the family around them. 

I’m passionate about it because I watched both my uncles who died from it – one was the keeper of the family memories, and maybe that is why. My aunt who loved him was determined he would not go into a home. She took care of him, and it literally killed her before he died.

And I had the privilege of being one of the producers of the Glenn Campbell film, I’ll Be Me. Glenn wanted to make a movie once he found out he had it. It was painful to see him get on stage as his disease progressed, but then this magical thing would happen – he could sing and play better than anyone. 

Music, dance, and art are the last cognizant elements to go, so you can sometimes be a functional artist with Alzheimer’s. We hope to find a drug to cure it, but in the meantime there’s nutrition and other support.

It’s our world story now because we are all living longer. Whether we have it or are the caretakers, the next generation will have to deal with it.

As a co-founder of the Open Hearts Foundation, your mission statement is to, “…inspire and empower people to turn their personal adversity into an opportunity to help others.” Kindly expound.

The real genesis of Open Hearts is my mother, a Dutch national who was in an internment camp, and after she got out, met my father. She could never really talk about it. My sisters and I got eventually her to open up, and she said, “Darling, everyone in life has challenges, we don’t get out of this world without challenge. What happens is a natural instinct to close up your heart, and if you don’t share with others, you’ll just be a long-playing record with a scratch that goes round and round, and you can’t get out of a recycling of the past. But if you can do the hardest thing, to accept, open your heart, and reach out in some way to help to someone else – you’ll have purpose, and that is the key to living. If you have a purpose, love will come into your heart, you’ll be lovable and open to receiving love.”

[Seymour then pointed to the dual open heart necklace she was wearing]

I designed and trademarked these two hearts for our foundation. After 9/11 we went into a world of fear and terror, and I wanted to find some way that the human condition and spirit be celebrated in the good it was doing. 

If I have a mission in life, it’s to ignite the volunteer or the open heart in everybody to pay it forward. It’s why I’m here [speaking at the luncheon], I’m doing it for Lailan McGrath and for 70 people I know who are caregiving like she is. 

Our thing is not supporting one specific charity, it’s about the people who are opening their hearts, taking a challenge, and using it as an opportunity to help others. We verify what they are doing and make sure they are good candidates with a full board. We find extraordinary foundations, tell their stories on our website and raise awareness and money for them. 

My daughter Katie started a program to bring volunteering programs into middle school with other volunteers. Studies show it helps youth in terms of their own mental health issues. We have it in Marin County and will spread it nationally.

We also want to curate and put together volunteering opportunities online, to have a listing of foundations and a listing of people with their talents who want to volunteer. 

That’s the mission of the Open Hearts Foundation and why I’m coming to the luncheon. It’s very much an Open Hearts theme. 

If anyone is interested, my foundation’s annual gala is May 20th at the Calamigos Ranch Malibu, not far from Montecito, and there will be a benefactor dinner May 19 at my home.

What’s next for you?

I have my own series on Acorn TV called, Harry Wild. I’m playing an English professor in Dublin who quits in the first episode and realizes she’s quite useful with her knowledge of books and history at solving crimes. It’s humorous, irreverent, intelligent, literate, and doing really well. We are now doing series two and three concurrently. I’m also Executive Producer on it. It’s a three generational series, we’re all in it together. And I’m doing another movie about Alzheimer’s but can’t announce it yet!

What is an interview question you would love to be asked, and your reply to it?

[laughs…] Well, I’m a little on the spot thinking what that would be, but actually an interesting one would be, “If I were to come back and have my life over, would I want to do it as a woman or a man?”

[smiles…] A woman, yes, a woman. I’ve had a very good ride so far and I think I’d go in for another go. Men want to fight, women want to solve things. Women are very nurturing, multitask a lot, are very in touch with emotions, and I think now as women are being more respected in every profession, they have unique talents in areas that used to be predominantly male. For example, when I did the Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman series, many told me they became doctors because of that.

The interview concluded with Cushman asking Seymour for an opportunity to show her film, Ruby’s Choice, and that is going to be in the works! 

411: Tickets: inspire2023.givesmart.com



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