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University of Iowa News Release

 

May 27, 2011

Millersburg man riding horse across Iowa for UI Alzheimer's research

At night, he will sleep in a bed in the back of his pick-up truck. By day, he will ride on horseback three miles per hour across the state of Iowa.

This is 80-year-old cowboy Bill Taylor's summer odyssey to raise money for Alzheimer's research at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Taylor, of Millersburg, Iowa, will begin his 259-mile journey at 10 a.m. June 6 in Grandview, along the Mississippi River, and follow Highway 92 to Council Bluffs. The trip will take 10 to 15 days, depending on the weather.

His inspiration comes from watching several friends suffer from Alzheimer's.

"I had two good friends pass away from Alzheimer's," said Taylor, a Korean War veteran and former Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association announcer. "I will do anything I can to raise funds for Alzheimer's research. I see what these people go through. Who knows? I might get it next month."

According to the latest U.S. Census, Iowa has an estimated 444,457 residents age 65 or older. And, according to the Alzheimer's Association, an estimated 69,000 Iowans age 65 and older suffer from Alzheimer's disease, which means 1 of every 6 people age 65 and older in Iowa have the disease.

That harsh reality highlights the importance of the research being done by UI professor Daniel Tranel and his colleagues at UI Hospitals and Clinics. Tranel has been conducting research on Alzheimer's since the early 1980s, but the disease still has no cure.

"Many neurological diseases occur in older people. People are routinely living into their 70s, 80s and 90s and that's where those diseases tend to be most prevalent," said Tranel, professor of neurology and psychology and director of the neuroscience graduate program. "And we are facing an enormous increase in numbers of people afflicted by conditions like Alzheimer's disease. The fact that the Baby Boomer Generation is about to go into those years is a big health issue, a major health issue."

Last February, Taylor came to the neurology clinic at UI Hospitals and Clinics -- without an appointment -- asking to speak with Tranel. Taylor was prepared to wait all day if necessary, but he was able to meet with Tranel after only 30 minutes and quickly sold him on his unconventional idea.

So much so that Tranel, a horseman himself and a Montana native, will ride alongside Taylor for the first few hours on June 6.

Taylor plans to ride 20 to 26 miles per day on his horse Liberty, a 17-year-old quarter horse-Arabian mix, until they reach Council Bluffs. They will take Sunday off to rest. If Liberty can't make the entire journey, Taylor will ride 14-year-old Miss Liberty.

With an Army buddy and his wife hauling his horse trailer from town to town, Taylor expects to have a successful trip.

"The people who know me know that I can probably do it. Those people who are saying, 'He's 80 years old, he can't do it, he'll never make it,' are judging me on how they feel. The way I feel today and the physical condition I'm in today, I can ride across the nation."

To support Taylor's effort to fund Alzheimer's research at UI Hospitals and Clinics, go to http://givetoiowa.org/2011GCWA.

Donations also can be mailed to Donna Welter, Director of Human Resources and Finance, UI Graduate College, 205C GILH, Iowa City, IA 52242. Checks should be made out to "The University of Iowa Foundation." The memo line should specify "UIHC Tranel Lab--Alzheimer's research."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Graduate College Office of External Relations, 205 Gilmore Hall, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: John Riehl, 319-384-1309, john-riehl@uiowa.edu