A Shannon man diagnosed with Alzheimers joined hundreds of other people dressed in purple in a walk through Levin yesterday to raise awareness of the disease.

Ken Pasco, 75, was diagnosed with Alzheimers in October last year. He won the prize for the best costume at the walk. His huge purple wig and sunglasses made him a standout.

He and his wife Maria, who also was decked out in purple, moved to Shannon three years ago after 40 years in the Chatham Islands.

They said they were adjusting to life with Alzheimers, but were keen to make the most of every moment. That included the odd beer, and Ken had a workshop at home full of tools and projects that kept him busy.


"I wasn't happy that they took my gun licence and driver licence from me though," he said.

The keen fisherman said he would be lost without his wife and they were planning trips to visit friends in different parts of New Zealand.

"We're making memories," they said.

They were grateful for the support networks available from organisations like Alzheimers Manawatū and the Marion Kennedy Club (MKC), which they attend twice each week.

The walk, which is in its sixth year, went from the Levin Adventure Park through to Te Takeretanga o kura-hau-pō, and ended with a lunch. It coincided with World Alzheimers Month, while tomorrow is World Alzheimers Day.

More than 300 people were involved, creating a sea of purple.

Les Jury
Les Jury

Les Jury spoke at the lunch, and said he participated in the walk in recognition of the work that people in the sector provide, and to help raise awareness of the disease.

He knew from his own experience how important it was to ask for help. His wife Faye developed Alzheimers a few years ago and was now in fulltime care.


"I woke up one morning and thought 'where the heck do I start'?" he said.

"You get to the point where you don't know where to start, so I googled the 0800 number and asked for help."

Jury now volunteered for the organisation and MKC in Palmerston North, helping others with advice with services and referrals in what can be a stressful experience for someone who has first been diagnosed.

MKC provided respite for those with Alzheimers and their carers, and met every day except Tuesday.

Alzheimers Manawatū dementia advisor Anne Lowry said they were grateful for people like Mr Jury.

"We are just so grateful. It's an opportunity to say thank you," she said.

"It can be a shock...everyone is different, and we can help work out strategies that work, and they can speak to people that they can trust," she said.

Lowry stressed that early referral was important and helped those with Alzheimers understand what was going on and prepare for the future, as they can leave hospital with little more than a diagnosis.

It was also important to have early advice with legal obligations like appointing power of attorney and making a will.

"It is important to understand and prepare and plan for what's ahead, when they are ready to work through it, because we don't know what we don't know," she said.

Elias Falconer
Elias Falconer

Elias Falconer painted his beard and moustache purple and donned a purple tee-shirt for the walk. He said his father Robert developed Alzheimers a few years ago and was in care.

"I do as much as I can to support him," he said.

Donna Hedley from Alzheimers Manawatū said a catchphrase of the walk was "Our Lives Matter - I Am Still Me", and people were encouraged to write down a memory on special memory cards as a symbolic gesture.

It was estimated that every three seconds someone in the world was diagnosed with dementia. In New Zealand, an estimated 80 per cent of people are affected by dementia in some way.