Mary* is 85, little, friendly and active. When I joined Age Concern Wellington Region’s Companion Walking Service, I looked forward to walking weekly with her. We live in the same suburb.
But after a couple of walks near her rest home and dozens of repetitions of how she was born, schooled and lived all her life in the area, I thought ‘I’m not sure I can do this.’
Shame, then inspiration seized me.
On a cold damp day, I collected Mary and drove five minutes to the Botanic Gardens.
‘I’ve never been here,’ she said.
‘Two brave little old ladies!’ I said as we walked in the drizzle. We both laughed.
We went into the hothouse. Mary was interested in everything that was pointed out. ‘That would hurt!’ she said of the cactus, and ‘I love yellow!’ as we looked at the begonias.
The following week, we tried the waterfront. She told me she’d never been there before. I pointed to a skateboarder. Mary said, ‘They go fast. My father would never have let us go on one of those!’
We walked in the Otari Plant Museum, in Kelburn Village, down and up again in the Cable Car, to the Cable Car Museum (‘My mother would never have let us sit outside!’), we wandered amongst the tulips in the Gardens. She’d never seen any of these places before.
She told me more about her upbringing.
One day, when we arrived back at her dementia unit, she said, ‘Thank you for talking to me. I never talk to anyone here.’
I’m not sure if she’d remember if she did talk to anyone there. I’m not even sure she remembers these walks. ‘Does it matter?’ I asked myself.
I decided it doesn’t. All that matters is that for a couple of hours, Mary has laughed and talked and been very happy.
And so have I. D. K., Companion Walker
*To protect her privacy we have changed her name and location of residence.