When the Companion Walking Service was set up in 2020, we needed a bank of volunteers ready for when the referrals started to come in. At that time, I belonged to an exercise group in Karori and over coffee told the group about my new job. One member of the group, Delyse, was particularly interested because she was a keen and fit walker; she was even part of a walking group. Delyse agreed to sign up to become one of the first volunteers for the Companion Walking Service.
After the forms and the required Health & Safety Training was completed, I arranged for Delyse to meet her client. I explained that Emily* had mild dementia and was in a rest home, and that she also used to be a keen walker. Unfortunately, Emily’s family didn’t visit so she had no one to go out walking with her. Emily felt lonely and really missed walking.
We were lucky on the day they met as it was lovely weather, and we all went for a walk around Karori. Emily had lived there most of her life and really enjoyed reminiscing about bringing up her family in Karori, friends that lived there and places she used to visit.
Delyse and Emily were both the same height, on the short side, and chatted away easily. Delyse said they were like two peas in a pod. Over the two and a half years that they knew each other, they visited many places that Emily had fond memories of from the past.
The Botanical Gardens were a favourite, as well as the tram museum in Kelburn. They went on the bus and visited the waterfront on some of those beautiful days that we get on occasion in Wellington. To capture these events, Delyse took photographs to put in a memory book for Emily. Delyse often wrote alongside the photo so that it would be a trigger for conversation in the future.
Unfortunately, through lockdown there were times when several weeks would go by and they were unable to meet up, and they missed each other’s company. Emily sadly passed away recently, but the memory book remains a great way to revisit happy times Emily and Delyse spent together on those special walks.
~ Lynn Crossland, Companion Walking Service Coordinator
* name has been changed for privacy reasons