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Stepping up for dementia awareness

Staff and residents from Ryman Healthcare's Jane Mander Retirement Village united to complete the 4km Hatea Loop walk in Whangarei at the weekend to support the dementia cause.

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Team Ryman from Jane Mander lined up at the front, ready to start walking for Alzheimers NZ

The 14-man Ryman team put on their walking shoes and joined around 300 others completing this year's annual Alzheimers NZ Memory Walk, which also included the charity's champion for dementia, TV personality Colin Mathura-Jeffree.

As well as raising awareness for what is one of the biggest health challenges facing New Zealand today, Alzheimers NZ organises 20 Memory Walks up and down the country as a way to honour family or community members that have been or are affected by dementia.

Being physically active is recognised as a way of reducing the risk of developing dementia and the annual event is timed to coincide with World Alzheimers Month, marked each September around the globe.

With Alzheimers NZ being Ryman Healthcare's chosen charity partner this year, village manager Wendy Turner said it was a wonderful way for the village to show their support and the beautiful sunny weather just added to the joyful occasion.

Joining the six staff members were eight very active residents, which even included Marie Minhinnick who just turned 90!

"It was a really impressive effort by our residents," said Wendy.

"All eight of them are members of our in-house exercise programme Triple A and do the classes three times a week. They said if it wasn't for that they might have struggled so it's great to know they are feeling the benefits of staying active.

"We had a lovely time chatting with the residents and we all really enjoyed spending that one on one quality time with them. It was a perfect day."

There was one thing Wendy just had to do before the team headed back to the village for refreshments however.

"I couldn't resist getting my photo taken with Colin," she laughed.

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L-R: Jane Mander Retirement Village resident Marie Minhinnick (90), Clinical Manager Shalimar Bawayan, TV star and Alzheimers NZ champion for dementia Colin Mathura-Jeffree, and Village Manager Wendy Turner.

Kevin Salmon, Manager of Alzheimers Society Northland, said this was the first year the event was used as a fundraiser.

"This year people could donate or sponsor a walker online and through this we raised $2,500 which is wonderful," he said.

Ryman Healthcare chief executive Gordon MacLeod said Ryman villages included 710 dementia beds and demand for care was growing all the time.

"Alzheimer's and dementia take a huge toll on our residents and their families, and that's why supporting the good work they do is important to us as well as being a popular cause with our residents.

"We're delighted to support Alzheimers NZ and the annual Memory Walks which is just one of the great initiatives the charity does."

Alzheimers NZ chief executive Catherine Hall said the Memory Walks were a great way to raise awareness of the dementia challenge facing New Zealand.

"Dementia is one of New Zealand's most significant and growing health challenges, with over 60,000 Kiwis currently living with the condition."

Ms Hall said despite this, there was very little discussion about dementia or acknowledgement of its everyday impacts which was why the organisation had adopted a 'Dementia-friendly NZ' as its mission.

"Most people with dementia live in our communities. They shop, work, eat out, catch the bus, go to the library and do everything else we all enjoy doing.

"We want New Zealand to be an open and inclusive society – a place where people with dementia feel valued and safe, and where they can contribute to and participate in their communities.

"Memory Walks are an important part of raising more awareness about dementia in our communities," Ms Hall said.

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a group of conditions that affect how well our brains work.

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia - around two thirds of people with dementia have Alzheimer's disease.

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