An 87-year-old old man with dementia last week graduated from university and plans to continue studying for a graduate degree.
He completed 136 credits in four years, along with his bachelor’s thesis.
Lin Tien-fa (林添發) from Chiayi County started to develop symptoms of dementia 17 years ago.
Lin fell asleep while driving, failed to find his way home, forgot his home telephone number and was later diagnosed with dementia, together with an intelligence quotient (IQ) equivalent to a seven-year-old.
In 2004, Lin was given a permanently effective “catastrophic illness card” because of his condition.
However, Lin did not succumb to the disease. He has set up a Hondao Senior Citizens’ Welfare Foundation’s volunteer station in Chiayi’s Dalin Township (大林) and taught Japanese. As a result, his symptoms have subsided.
Despite having only a vocational high school diploma, Lin started studying four years ago and was later admitted to the continuing education program at Nanhua University’s Department of Philosophy and Life Education.
At first, Lin needed his son and daughter-in-law’s help to commute to class and to take notes.
Now, Lin can cope independently and has even been honored with a prize for his class notes.
One of Lin’s classmate said that the school did not treat Lin leniently because of his condition.
“Lin always sat in the front row, never dozed in class and raised questions a lot,” the classmate said. “He has been more enthusiastic and serious about studying than most of his classmates.”
His classmate added that Lin was particularly strong in the Taoist philosophy of Zhuangzi (莊子). Lin’s bachelor’s thesis was based on the social value of the volunteer station he established and at which he works.
According to Hsu Hung-chieh (徐鴻傑), a physician in the department of psychosomatic medicine at Dalin Tzu Chi Hospital, dementia can be irreversible, in which it is a degenerative or vascular dementia.
Dementia can be reversible if it is caused by anemia, malnutrition or metabolic diseases, which can be treated.
Hsu said that Lin’s case might fall into this category.
However, another physician practicing in Chiayi, Wang Chia-ling (王家麟), said he believes Lin was misdiagnosed from the outset.