Maria Shriver heads to South by Southwest for Alzheimer's awareness
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Maria Shriver is heading to South by Southwest (SXSW), but she’s not dishing on music or tech at the famed festival, she’s talking about Alzheimer’s.

Her appearance on a panel at the annual conference when it kicks off Friday in Austin, Texas, is an attempt at “reaching a different and perhaps younger audience,” says Shriver.


She tells ITK her mission is “trying to educate people about the disproportionate impact on women” from the progressive brain disorder, and trying to “educate all Americans that their brain health is a critical part of their overall checkup.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a brain is impacted by Alzheimer’s every 65 seconds, with two-thirds of patients being women.

The 63-year-old former first lady of California has been at the forefront of the fight against the disease following her father’s diagnosis in 2003. She’s written a children’s book about it and partnered with HBO in 2009 for a series called “The Alzheimer’s Project.”

Last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) tapped her to lead a new Alzheimer’s Prevention and Preparedness Task Force. At SXSW, along with the Alzheimer’s Association, Shriver will debut a new public service announcement and campaign called “The Alzheimer’s Chorus,” which will feature female caregivers from across the country singing a medley of female empowerment songs.

“I think there’s a lot to be done locally. There’s a lot to be done at kitchen tables in homes, in communities,” Shriver says when asked if there are any actions that could be taken by Congress. Noting she’s been to Capitol Hill twice to push lawmakers for increased research funding, Shriver says the battle includes “working with all the mayors of local cities, working with governors. And then ultimately my goal is to get a president who takes this on as an issue.”

Asked on International Women’s Day if she predicted that she’d see a woman president in her lifetime, Shriver, a member of the famed Kennedy family, replies, “Oh, I’m sure. But I’m just focused right now on this.”

When ITK questioned whether it’s tough to draw attention to an issue such as Alzheimer’s in the current heated political climate, Shriver says she doesn’t “pay any attention to that” — and it’s not a partisan issue.

“But I think it’s always hard to break through since the media is always focused on one person and so does everybody else seem to be focused on,” Shriver adds. “So I think it’s important that the media write about things other than [President] Trump and the media talk about things other than Trump."

"But that being said," Shriver says, "it would be great if Trump would talk about Alzheimer’s.”