We’ll start with news of personal significance: thanks to the persistence of the Hilton concierge who was dealing with quite a few guests like us without luggage, our two suitcases were delivered late this afternoon. Now we both have more clothes than we’ll need, especially since we went to a discount designer clothes place (like Loehmann’s or Syms, for East Coast friends) and got John a shirt and me a skirt and blouse to have in the event the luggage didn’t arrive. It’s the only way I’ll ever have anything by Versace for $50! The morning began with the usual fabulous European hotel breakfast. Of course the cost is built into the room charge, but still it feels free; the buffets in the U.S., which I never get because I don’t want to pay $13.95 for breakfast, don’t have arugula, muesli, Italian charcuterie, etc. After attending for three straight years, it seems clear that Alzheimer Europe sets standards for the menus, so that breakfast and lunch include bounty for attendees from all nations and cultures. Oh, and pastry breaks mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
The day’s program began with four plenary talks on palliative care, a poster session (with treats), and four more plenary talks on the science of dementia prevention (eat your veggies; take walks with friends). After lunch, there was a wide array of “parallel sessions,” each an hour and half long with five to six presentations each. John selected one on “perceptions and images of dementia” (e.g., themes of Hollywood films) and another on ”dementia-friendly communities. Susan happily sat through 6 talks on psychosocial research and then chaired an excellent session on dementia and the arts (photography, clowning, painting, TimeSlips storytelling, visits to art museums, etc.) We’ll write more about the “dementia-friendly community” themes in another post.
As one first-time participant exclaimed, “it is all wonderful, but it is too much wonderful!” A new friend from Switzerland, also attending for the first time, accurately observed that the presentations were of uneven quality. Yes, and we think that is by design. Proposals to present are vetted by their thematic relevance, but not by the prestige of the persons presenting; it is a conference where a young graduate student doing her first public presentation can share the podium with a renowned researcher, which is among the reasons it is among our favorite conferences.
The day concluded with the “Gala,” the big social evening for those who participate. We took buses to the president’s palace for a private tour, a rare occasion as it is normally closed to the public. Malta, including its president, was deeply invested in hosting this conference, so all the hospitality stops were pulled out. We then bussed to the ancient medieval city of Mdina for a grand meal at Bacchus, a restaurant located deep in the city’s walls, where we dine on a sumptuous meal, returning to our hotel very late. It all starts again early in the morning, so we need to sleep. We hope to write a catch-up post tomorrow night after the conference closes, and then some reflections on what we experienced.