Best Friends in Wainuiomata

“Checkmate,” Ian says.

“Hang on, oh yeah,” Ken laughs. “Again. You beat me again!”

Ken has been visiting Ian for about two years as part of the Age Concern Wellington Region Accredited Visitor Service.

When Ken, a doctor from the Philippines, moved to New Zealand a little over two years ago, he looked for a volunteering opportunity with seniors. His medical practice in the Philippines catered to many seniors, and he wanted to keep that connection in his new country.

Ian was widowed about three years ago. He fell and broke his hip a few months later. When it came time to discharge Ian from the hospital, he was referred to Age Concern’s visiting service since the hospital staff thought he would likely be lonely when he returned home. Although Ian has a son and grandchildren who live locally, more companionship was welcome.

Ken and Ian have become best friends, almost like family. They meet at Ian’s house regularly to play chess, watch The Chase, or just chat over a cup of tea. Sometimes Ian gets stuck with a computer issue like sending photos to his son in Australia, and Ken helps him. They’ve even spent the day together at Ian’s bach on the beach a few times. Ken looks forward to introducing his wife and children to Ian when they move over from the Philippines.

Ian worked for the railway for four decades, starting as a turner on a lathe before progressing to other roles including training apprentices. He looks timeless – he could be 60, or perhaps 90. He wears a plaid shirt and walks with a stick. His home is tidy and part of a new retirement village development in Wainuiomata. An ancient cactus nearly as tall as the ceiling brings a burst of colour to the muted colours of the warm living room.

Ian has prepared tea and biscuits, and Ken and Ian sip their tea thoughtfully as they examine the chess board. Muffin, Ian’s ginger and white cat, watches the men carefully as though he too understands the game.

A grandfather clock stands guard over the chess game and suddenly chimes loudly just as Ian says checkmate. The two men laugh. It’s clear they truly enjoy each other’s friendship.


If you would like to know more about Age Concern Wellington Region’s Accredited Visitor Service, please call 04 499 6648 or email

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