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Ken Sims - Paying It Forward

As someone who has always been a hard worker, the last thing Ken Sims wanted to do when he retired was sit at home and “become a cucumber or a couch potato.”

To try and stay active, Ken had a browse online for volunteer jobs available and found a listing seeking a part-time driver for someone with Alzheimer’s. Although he’d had limited exposure to dementia previously, a friend of his with dementia had recently passed away. Ken also suspects that his grandfather may have had dementia, but this was during an era where symptoms of what we now know to be dementia were simply chalked up to someone “being senile.”

With these prior experiences with dementia in mind, the driver job appealed to Ken and he thought it would be a worthy cause to be involved with. It wasn’t long after putting his name forward that Ken found himself volunteering three days a week, signing up for a range of activities to support people with dementia, including volunteering with walking groups in Blockhouse Bay, One Tree Hill (now disbanded) and now Henderson.

Whilst very satisfying, Ken has found that helping out with people who have dementia can be emotionally challenging. “The sad fact with dementia is that there’s decline all the time,” Ken laments. “It can be quite emotionally draining seeing it happen to someone you’ve known for two or three years.”

However, Ken’s happy that his contributions have helped people with dementia to live well with dementia and maintain a healthy lifestyle. He’s noticed that some people with dementia can become quite withdrawn, so the walking groups he’s involved with finish with a chat over a cup of coffee – giving everyone the chance to socialise.

Though many have benefited from Ken’s volunteering, he has also found his contributions very rewarding on a personal level. “It gets me out and about, I get to see things through other people’s eyes. We talk about all sorts of situations, things we see on the news – even politics occasionally!” Ken takes immense pride in hearing feedback from partners of some of the people with dementia for whom he volunteers, telling him about how they value the friendship he’s made with them. 

It’s obvious that volunteering is a rewarding experience for Ken; one can only imagine how grateful the people Ken has supported are for his service!