Celebrating Treasured Memories: Alzheimer’s Society Dunedin

Julie Butler is manager at the Dunedin branch of Alzheimer’s Society Otago. She is excited about key events for the organisation this month, and on the look-out for people to join in and help out. There are a number of volunteer roles to be filled.

Alzheimer’s disease is on the increase in New Zealand. While the number of Kiwis affected by Alzheimer’s currently sits at around roughly 1% of the population, numbers rose by over 18% in just the three years between 2008 and 2011. Future projections are not good. With increased lifespans and the baby boomer generation coming of age, Alzheimer’s is set to become one of our major health problems. Support for research into the disease, and for organisations like the Alzheimer’s Society, is now more critical than ever before!

World Azheimer’s Day (September 21st) is about raising public awareness around Alzheimer’s and dementia. We all need to be reminded that millions worldwide are affected by this disorder. That doesn’t just mean the people who suffer from dementia personally, since the sadness and stress of watching a loved one’s slow decline will often affect the individual’s entire family.

Please Remember September 20th!

The Alzheimer’s Society will be holding their street collection on the 20th September this year. This annual appeal is vital for supporting the organisation’s important work. The Alzheimer’s Society usually raises several thousand dollars this way, and this year, Julie is hoping some of the money can go towards buying more pendants for the innovative WandaTrak service recently implemented in Dunedin and other parts of the Otago region.

WandaTrak is a radio tracking technology already helping many Kiwis who suffer from dementia, at risk of wandering and becoming lost. Volunteering as a collector is a fantastic and easy way to make a real difference to the lives of these New Zealanders and their families – so if you can spare a couple of hours on Saturday the 20th September, why not mark it on your calendar and contact the Alzheimer’s Society? Go on, do it now – before you forget!

“There really is not enough we can say to express our gratitude for the help of volunteers,” says Julie. “We get a lot of people who collect for us who do not have a direct connection to dementia. People affected by dementia are generally in the older age bracket, so I think this is a way of giving something back to those people; a way of acknowledging that during their seventy-plus years they’ve given a lot to the community, and this is a way we can give them something back.

“I actually really enjoy collecting, you get to talk to a lot of really neat people. It is not just about the money, but also about raising awareness for the organisation. We get people who phone us after the event and say, ‘I saw your organisation in the street and never realised you existed – can you help me with my parent, or my husband or my wife?’”

Free T-shirts and a Giant Blow-up Brain: Walking to Raise Awareness.

Sunday 21st September is World Alzheimer’s Day. The Alzheimer’s Society – joined by ex All Black captain Ruben Thorn – will be conducting a ‘memory walk’ in Dunedin on World Alzheimer’s Day to raise awareness around Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Everybody’s welcome on what promises to be a fun-filled day for the whole family. The walk commences from outside the Dental School on Great King Street at 2pm, proceeds along George Street, down into Moray Place, and finishes at the Community House car-park. Walkers get a free T-shirt!

After the walk, a celebration of sorts will begin, and The Community House car-park will be host to a giant inflatable brain, weather permitting. This educational, bouncy-castle-like brain stands at roughly 18 feet high and is the only one of its kind in New Zealand. You can walk inside it and learn about things such as memory, and what happens to the cerebral regions when people suffer from Alzheimer’s, dementia and other forms of brain injury.

There will also be a ‘treasure chest of memories.’ People will be encouraged to think about and write down their favourite or most important memories and deposit them in the chest.

“It’s really about getting people to think about how important and precious their memories are,” says Julie. “People write down their most treasured memories and put them in the chest. We all need to look after our memories and our brains and appreciate that we still have them.”

Julie Butler
Julie Butler

Volunteers are also needed to help with face painting, and Julie is on the look-out for some musicians or other kinds of performers to entertain the children in attendance too. If you can help, please contact the Dunedin branch of the Alzheimer’s Society as soon as possible. Thank You!

 by Hayden Williams