Ollie and Vernie Doolittle

The bond between Ollie and Vernie Doolittle has endured 61 years of marriage and military service during two wars. So when Ollie Doolittle was diagnosed with memory problems that can progress to Alzheimer’s disease, as usual, they resolved to meet the challenge together.

Doctors recommended physical, mental and social activity to support brain health – so the 81-year-old Doolittle continues to play on three softball teams. The couple fills their social calendar with friends, church and charity fundraisers.

They also fight back against memory loss by taking part in a multiyear study at the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center. The study follows participants with Alzheimer’s and related disorders through annual standardized tests of personality, memory, attention, language and other functions, along with some medical  imaging.

“With Mr. Doolittle’s help, we are trying to understand how the brain ages in illness and in health,” said William Seavey, a geriatrician on the center’s research staff who works with the couple. “We hope that one day it will be possible to identify cognitive loss before it has a significant impact on a person’s function, and to stop its progression with effective treatment.”

After several years of relatively stable test results, Doolittle has shown more evidence of memory decline over the last two years. Nevertheless, he’s still able to drive to softball games, take care of the yard and handle other chores.