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Tony Bennett's Family Shares His Alzheimer's Disease Diagnosis

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Iconic singer Tony Bennett has been living with Alzheimer’s disease for the last four years, according to an AARP magazine feature where his family opened up about his condition for the first time. The talented vocalist, who was born in New York City, is known for his melodic contributions in multiple genres, including a new album with Lady Gaga.

Bennett’s wife Susan explained symptoms first started popping up in 2015 when he had just turned 90. She said he started having trouble remembering the names of his fellow band members, something she attributed to normal aging. The singer was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, though she explains at that point he didn’t entirely understand what it meant to have Alzheimer’s.

“He would ask me, ‘What is Alzheimer’s?’ I would explain, but he wouldn’t get it,” Susan told the magazine. He’d tell me, ‘Susan, I feel fine.’ That’s all he could process — that physically he felt great. So, nothing changed in his life. Anything that did change, he wasn’t aware of.”

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that causes memory loss, cognitive decline as well as changes in mood and personality. According to the CDC, Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia and is on the rise amongst Americans. Currently about 5 million people in the U.S. live with the disease, a statistic that is expected to increase to 14 million by 2060.

According to AARP Magazine, despite 94-year-old Bennett’s cognitive decline and memory loss, he still has some moments of clarity. Susan explained his musical abilities remain intact — something that scientists often note is common with Alzheimer’s disease.

Susan said since the pandemic, his contact with others has become more limited but he still practices twice a week with his pianist at the recommendation of his neurologist. Over the last two years of his diagnosis he also recorded an album with Lady Gaga, which is scheduled to be released this spring.

“There’s a lot about him that I miss. Because he’s not the old Tony anymore,” Susan said. “But when he sings, he’s the old Tony.”

Header image via Tom Beetz, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Originally published: February 1, 2021
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