When Ronan Smith was in his twenties, his father, the theatre impresario Brendan Smith, developed obvious signs of early onset Alzheimer’s disease but steadfastly refused to acknowledge it. Brendan ran the Olympia Theatre and had founded the Brendan Smith Academy of Acting and the Dublin Theatre Festival. A theatre and film actor, Ronan later became a producer and manager, and part of the worldwide phenomenon of Riverdance. It fell to Ronan to protect his father, and eventually, as Brendan’s condition became more challenging, to commit him into care, a traumatic but pivotal event in their father-son relationship.
So in 2014, when Ronan himself was diagnosed with the same illness, he knew exactly what the coming years would hold. But, unlike his father, Ronan chose to face his future positively, turning from work towards family, improving his diet and advocating for the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. In doing so, Ronan’s radically diff erent approach to this all-too-common disease has significantly changed the narrative around it in Ireland.