by sari anne tuschman | January 9, 2012 | Lifestyle
Seth Rogen with wife Lauren Miller, her brother, Dan, and parents Adele and Scott Miller
|Lauren Miller and Seth Rogen at their LA home|
|Rogen with Miller and her brother at an Alzheimer’s Association|
Contrary to popular belief, Alzheimer’s is not a disease that only strikes senior citizens. One in 10 people diagnosed with the devastating illness is younger than 65. But those who are given the distressing diagnosis aren’t the only ones who suffer; it deeply affects their loved ones as well.
Two people who are confronting the disease head-on are comedian Seth Rogen and his wife, Lauren Miller, who have been involved with the Alzheimer’s Association for several years and on January 13 host their own event, Hilarity for Charity, to benefit the nonprofit. We spoke to the LA-based couple about why this cause is particularly important to them, why they wanted to organize their own event, and what you may not know about Alzheimer’s.
Why did you want to create a new event for Alzheimer’s?
LAUREN MILLER: In our generation, everyone considers Alzheimer’s an old person’s disease—no one really considers it something that’s important to [young people]. But there’s that really scary statistic that says by 2050, as many as 16 million people will have Alzheimer’s. And by 2050 we’ll be in our seventies. So who are going to be those 16 million people? It’ll be us. And so it’s up to us to find treatments and cures now in order to beat the disease so that doesn’t happen. The event is about raising awareness, and really the only way to reach our generation is through humor and music.
What will the event entail?
SETH ROGEN: We want it to be the type of thing we get excited about. We want the whole night to have a narrative almost like a story or a movie is playing out. One thing we’ve talked about is [doing something] like The Muppet Show, where you see what’s happening behind the scenes, and that can be a part of the show. The idea of having various celebrities interact and be funny with each other is something we all got excited about. [We want to] make it interactive and playful.
LM: Kind of like a modern-day variety show.
Why is this cause so dear to both of you?
LM: It’s dear to us because Alzheimer’s has affected my family my entire life. Both my grandparents had it, and now my mom has it, and she was diagnosed at 55. That’s a 100 percent life-altering, family dynamic-changing diagnosis. We’ve had a personal look at the devastation this disease can cause. And it needs to be stopped. There’s no treatment for it. There is no medication. While they say there is medication that slows down [its progression], nothing slows it down. Nothing reverses it. Alzheimer’s is one of the few illnesses out there that is 100 percent terminal. So how could we not do something about it?
What do you think is the biggest misconception about Alzheimer’s?
LM: That it’s something that only affects old people. For years, Alzheimer’s had the nickname of “Old Timer’s.” My mom is not old. She was still teaching and was an active part of her community and involved in a lot of things, and [Alzheimer’s] stopped it all. What I’ve realized is this disease stops for no one.
SR: I literally had no concept it was something [people] in their mid-fifties could get…
LM: And younger than that! She is by far not the youngest person to get [Alzheimer’s].
SR: It’s the type of thing that’s kind of easy to emotionally disconnect from because you feel like when people get old, they’re just more susceptible to diseases in general. But it’s not something that just old people are getting—it’s not something that your grandparents get; it’s something your parents get and that someday you might get.
Why is it important to you both to encourage members of your generation to get involved in causes like this?
SR: In a much broader sense, if the event is funny and enjoyable, then I think it can show a lot of people you can be charitable without being a bummer. The preconceived notion with these types of things is that they can’t be fun, and that drives a lot of young people away from getting involved because they think it’s going to be a depressing experience. I hope this shows people that just because you’re doing something that is helpful to the world, it doesn’t have to be boring. It doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, funny, and edgy.
Even though Alzheimer’s is a tough subject to address, what has been the most fulfilling thing about being involved with this cause?
SR: In general, it seems like the more people hear you talk about something that has affected them, the better they feel about it. It just makes having a conversation about it easier if it’s a part of the culture in a way that people are comfortable talking about it.
In addition to the event, how would you suggest people get involved with the cause?
LM: The Alzheimer’s Association has a number of events throughout the year. But there’s also no cap on the amount of people who can volunteer at nursing homes and day-care facilities, or, if people have enough time, they can get trained and be in-home caretakers. Those people are always needed. And while that takes a lot more time, if someone can, there’s no reason not to do something like that.
photography by ashley barrett (Rogen and miller); courtesy of lauren miller