It is with profound sadness that the Alzheimer Society of Canada notes the recent death of Roger Marple, a tireless advocate for the rights of people living with dementia in Canada and the co-chair of our Advisory Group Steering Committee.
Roger lived in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and worked for many years for Alberta Health Services. He was an active sport enthusiast who played golf and tennis and was also known for his baking skills. He was well respected by his professional colleagues and deeply loved by his family and friends.
In the summer of 2015, Roger’s life was turned upside down when he was diagnosed with young-onset dementia. At the age of 58, he was one of the more than 28,000 people living in Canada who experiences dementia while under the age of 65. Undaunted by this terrible news, Roger strove to fully live with dementia, continuing to travel and enjoy life with the support of his family and friends.
Roger also became an outspoken champion of ending the stigma against people living with dementia. He pushed back against “dementia jokes” and stereotypes in both social and mainstream media. He realized that with a supportive family and caregivers, it is possible to live a rich and fulfilling life while living with dementia. Roger never attempted to sugarcoat the reality of living with dementia, but he reminded everyone that life itself is terminal, and that we all have a role to play in making each other’s lives better. He wrote:
“As a person living with dementia, here is a promise I will make to all of you. I promise I will not make fun of any challenges you may have with your terminal condition called life. I will see who you are regardless of any challenges you may have. I will recognize and support you to live your life to the fullest regardless of challenges you have. I promise to recognize what hope looks like for you living your life to the fullest, with the time you have left, so you can live a good quality of life. And most of all, I will respect who you are.”
In recent years, Roger joined the Alzheimer Society of Canada’s Advisory Group Steering Committee, which helps the Society ensure that the authentic voices of people with lived experience with dementia are present and visible in both in its programs and its advocacy. He rose to the role of co-chair of the group, which played a pivotal role in developing the Canadian Charter of Rights for People Living with Dementia. This document reaffirms that people living with dementia have the right to live their lives without stigma and to make their own decisions regarding treatment options and other factors that affect their quality of life.
Roger was also the driving force behind “Memory Tips and Tricks,” one of the Society’s most widely shared and downloaded resources, which provides helpful information to people living with dementia on how to keep their minds sharp while managing day-to-day tasks. Roger guided the Advisory Group as it developed the document and contributed many valuable insights based on his personal experience.
Roger’s passing is a loss for Canada’s dementia community. He was a compassionate and committed spokesperson for those who often felt neglected and their stories unheard. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to his family and loved ones. We remember his wisdom and resilience:
“I live for the here and now. I don’t let this disease define who I am. I’m way too busy enjoying life to let that get in my way. Anyone who knows me sees me, not the disease.”
Roger was a mentor to many, a confidant to some and a true and honest friend to all. He will be truly and dearly missed.
Some remembrances from the Advisory Group
“I have many happy memories of working with him and that smile he always had.” —Bill, Advisory Group Member
“This is a very sad time for Roger’s family, friends and colleagues. And indeed, for the many, many people whose lives were touched by Roger — those who were either living with dementia or those who were supporting someone living with dementia. Roger was an inspiration who made an amazing impact. Roger will dearly be missed.” —Keith, Advisory Group Member
“Roger would start our chats with ‘Hey there, kid’ and end with ‘Keep up the good work, kid.’ He has completely changed the way I view dementia and made me take a pause throughout all the work I have done and will continue to do. He will truly be missed.” —Natasha Jacobs, Advisory Group & Volunteer Lead, Research & Knowledge Translation and Exchange
“I knew Roger before I ever met him. His advocacy was one of the reasons I joined the Alzheimer Society. He was as generous with his time as he was with telling his story, despite all the stigma. Over the years, he became a close friend and sounding board whose openness and tenacity I learned from and leaned on. He had such a profound impact on all the work we do. I will miss him dearly.” —Saskia Sivananthan, Chief Research & Knowledge Translation and Exchange Officer