December 28, 2021: A Very Happy Birthday to Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, and We Would Imagine the Greatest Wish for the Princess on Her Birthday Would Be to See a World Without Alzheimer’s

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergphotosSimerg and Barakah

Simerg will be publishing a multi-part series on Alzheimer’s in 2022, and we plan to launch the series early in the New Year with a special profile on Princess Yasmin and her involvement with the Alzheimer’s Association since 1981. Alzheimer’s contributed to her mother Ms. Rita Hayworth’s death at the age of 67 in 1987. The Association has raised tens of millions of dollars through the annual Rita Hayworth Galas that have been held in Chicago and New York over the past 35 years.

Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, daughter of Prince Aly Khan and Rita Hayworth, and younger sister of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Prince Amyn Mohamed, at Alzheimer’s fundraiser in New York in December 1984. Photo Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, photograph by Bernard Gotfryd.

Today, December 28, 2021, is a very special day in the life of the Princess as she celebrates her 72nd birthday. We mark her birthday with a brief tribute to the Princess on our sister website Barakah that includes a selection of historical photographs of the Princess as well as a link to an interview the she gave to Canada’s National Newspaper, “The Globe and Mail” in which she talks about Alzheimer’s.

On Sunday December 26, my morning twilight visit to the Pickering Waterfront on Lake Ontario, was one of the most amazing I have ever had in my life. The sky took on different tones every few minutes — I did not see the rising of the sun because of the cloud cover in the horizon, but watched in awe the sun’s impact on the sky and clouds above it. During those moments of joy, hope and bewilderment, there was only one person that came into my thoughts as I clicked on my camera more than a 100 times during the hour I spent at the Waterfront — Princess Yasmin.

Pickering water front trail twilight, Malik Merchant simerg Princess Yasmin birthday
Lake Ontario, Pickering Waterfront Park, 7:44 am five minutes before sunrise on December 26, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg
Pickering water front trail twilight, Malik Merchant simerg Princess Yasmin birthday
Lake Ontario, Pickering Waterfront Park, 7:53 am, four minutes after sunrise on December 26, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

The incredible twilight show in the sky, for me, was symbolic of a day in the life of an Alzheimer’s patient. In the horizon, I saw beautiful bright orange and red clouds that symbolized hope, then there was a dark swirling cloud that became the tail of a large gloomy cloud that represented despair and fear. Several minutes later as the sun continued to rise, and the skies turned blue, I saw the beautiful moon over Lake Ontario, representing hope once again. A normal-like pattern of behaviour in an Alzheimer’s patient, just like that of any other person without the disease, creates an absolutely thrilling moment for any family member, who might then say at that particular instant, ‘”my parent or spouse is healing and I can take him or her home. ” But that hope can quickly fade seconds, minutes or hours later when the patient’s behaviour pattern changes due to the disease; it is an unbearable moment for any loved family members or friends who may be around.

The Forthcoming 2022 In-Person Rita Hayworth Gala in Chicago: Founded and Chaired by Princess Yasmin Aga Khan

Our support for organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association and other local and national institutions in the communities we live in can contribute to finding a long-term improvement in the quality of lives of everyone afflicted with the disease or indeed, one day, in eliminating Alzheimer’s altogether.

Rita Hayworth Gala, Chicago, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan
Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, front row centre, in a group photo with members and supporters of the Alzheimer’s Association. Sadruddin Noorani who has been involved with the Alzheimer’s Association since the 1980’s is pictured on the back row, 3rd from left. Photo: Rita Hayworth Gala/Alzheimer’s Association.

I might note that Princess Yasmin founded and has been the Chair of the annual Rita Hayworth Galas in Chicago and New York since the mid 1980’s. The New York Gala now named the Imagine Benefit, has been built on the legacy of the Rita Hayworth Gala that was first held in 1984 — the latest Imagine event was held in November 2021.

The next Rita Hayworth Gala in Chicago, that was inaugurated in 1987, 3 years after the New York Gala, is scheduled to be held on April 23, 2022 at The Hilton in Chicago. It has been planned as an in-person event, with the presence of Princess Yasmin. However, the on-going pandemic situation may cause the event to be relayed virtually.

Simerg invites you to view the Rita Hayworth Gala information HERE. While the event titled “Generation of Hope” may be a few months away, your thoughtful support for the Alzheimer’s cause can begin at any time by visiting the website and submitting a pledge.

I am proud to say that a member of the Chicago Ismaili community, Sadruddin Noorani, has been very prominent in the Chicago Gala and the Alzheimer’s Association for years. His support to Princess Yasmin has been incredible and I would hope that hundreds, like him, from around the world will join Princess Yasmin in her effort to fulfill what we would all imagine would be her greatest wish on her birthday — finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Date posted: December 28, 2021.
Last updated: December 28, 2021; 10:30 AM (corrections, see below).

Corrections: (1) The original piece contained the wrong date for the forthcoming 2022 Alzheimer’s Rita Hayworth Gala in Chicago; the piece now reflects the correct date; (2) the Gala is not planned as a virtual event as mentioned in earlier versions. It is expected to be an in-person event, with Princess Yasmin in attendance unless of course the pandemic situation forces it to be a virtual event; and (3) corrections have been made to dates noted in the twilight photos.

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Princess Yasmin Aga Khan on President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan Championing the Fight Against Alzheimer’s Disease

Editor’s note: On Sunday, March 6, 2016, Mrs. Nancy Reagan, who served at the White House as the First Lady during the term of her husband’s Presidential reign from 1981 until 1989, died of congestive heart failure at the age of 94 at her home in Los Angeles.

Newlyweds Ronald and Nancy Reagan, March 4, 1952.

Newlyweds Ronald and Nancy Reagan, March 4, 1952.

The Former First Lady, who once reminisced that “my life really began when I married my husband,” was the principal caregiver during President Reagan’s decade long twilight with Alzheimer’s disease. When the President first learned that he was diagnosed with  Alzheimer’s, he issued an open letter to the American people  on November 5, 1994 writing:

“I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. ….In opening our hearts, we hope this might promote greater awareness of this condition. Perhaps it will encourage a clearer understanding of the individuals and families who are affected by it….as the disease progresses, the family often bears a heavy burden. I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience.”

Following this brave announcement of the diagnosis, Mrs. Reagan used her voice to represent families and increase awareness for Alzheimer’s disease. According to Newsweek magazine, the Former First Lady had also begun talking to Princess Yasmin Aga Khan about her husband’s Alzheimer’s. The princess, whose mother Rita Hayworth also had Alzheimer’s which contributed to the actress’s death at the age of 68, told Mrs. Reagan what to expect in the years to come: the mood changes, what it would be like when your loved one can no longer talk and doesn’t recognize you, how to care for someone who has grown incontinent, how to stimulate swallowing by patting the throat or touching the chin. Nancy was, “of course, devastated, but very brave,” Princess Yasmin told Newsweek.

In mourning the loss of Mrs. Regan last Sunday, the Alzheimer’s Association, of which Princess Yasmin Aga Khan is an Honorary Director, said that “The Alzheimer’s Association mourns the loss of first lady Nancy Reagan. Mrs. Reagan and President Reagan bravely shared his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease with the world in 1994….The public disclosure of their Alzheimer’s experience created an enormous and much-needed upsurge of interest in the disease…It was our honor to work with Mrs. Reagan over the years to raise awareness and inspire progress in Alzheimer’s research.”

The late President’s and Mrs. Regan’s advocacy in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease for more than 20 years had been noted much earlier by Princess Yasmin Aga Khan when President Reagan died in 2004. The Princess, daughter of Prince Aly Khan and Rita Hayworth and younger sister of the current 49th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, has striven for the past 30 years to raise awareness — and much-needed funds — through Alzheimer’s galas honouring her mother. Princess Yasmin’s efforts have raised over $68 million, which combined with other donations, have helped the Alzheimer’s Association make significant progress toward their mission to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease.

STATEMENT BY PRINCESS YASMIN AGA KHAN FOLLOWING THE DEATH OF PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN

The late 48th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, seated on a wheelchair with members of his family with his successor, the present Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan, standing at extreme right. Others in the photo (l to r), grandson Prince Amyn Muhammad, and the late Imams two sons, the late Prince Sadruddin and Prince Aly Khan, who is seen holding his daughter Princes Yasmin Aga Khan Photo: Zul Khoja Collection, Ottawa.

The late 48th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, seated on a wheelchair with members of his family with his successor, the present Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan, standing at extreme right. Others in the photo (l to r), grandson Prince Amyn Muhammad, and the Imam’s two sons, the late Prince Sadruddin and Prince Aly Khan, who is seen holding his daughter Princes Yasmin Aga Khan Photo: Zul Khoja Collection, Ottawa.

“In 1983, I was honored to join my fellow Alzheimer’s Association board members in the Oval Office when President Ronald Reagan first proclaimed November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Month. We talked with him about Alzheimer’s disease, and heard his concern for the need to support individuals with Alzheimer’s, their families and friends, and the need to eradicate the disease. In his proclamation, President Reagan said, “The emotional, financial and social consequences of Alzheimer’s disease are so devastating that it deserves special attention. Science and clinical medicine are striving to improve our understanding of what causes Alzheimer’s disease and how to treat it successfully. Right now, research is the only hope for victims and families.”

“As a member of the Alzheimer’s Association national board of directors and, as a family member who cared for my mother, Rita Hayworth, for so many years, I mourn the passing of former President of the United States Ronald Reagan and extend my own deepest sympathies to former First Lady Nancy Reagan and the Reagan family. President and Mrs. Reagan have been leading advocates in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease for more than 20 years, and millions of Americans have been helped by their dedication, compassion and efforts to support caregivers, raise public awareness about Alzheimer’s, and substantially increase our nation’s commitment to Alzheimer research. They proved their commitment again when they joined with the Alzheimer’s Association to create the Ronald and Nancy Reagan Research Institute, to advance scientific knowledge leading to treatments.

Princess Yasmin at Rita Hayworth Gala.png

Princess Yasmin, 2nd from right, at a recent Alzheimer’s fund raising annual gala held in the memory of her mother Rita Hayworth, who was afflicted with the disease. Photo: Alzheimer’s Association.

“The Alzheimer’s Association is honored that the Reagan family has designated the Association as one of three organizations they recommend to receive contributions in his name. Those who wish to donate to the Alzheimer’s Association’s Ronald and Nancy Reagan Research Institute, or to family support services, may visit http://www.alz.org. A fitting tribute to Ronald Reagan, his life and legacy, would be to join with the Alzheimer’s Association to create a world without Alzheimer’s disease. It is within our reach.”

Note: Princess Yasmin Aga Khan’s statement was reported by media wire sources, with credit to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Date posted: March 10, 2016.

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