Alastair joins ‘Side by Side’ project

Alastair Penny
Alastair Penny

Portadown man Alastair Penny, 67, has joined ‘Side by Side,’ a service run by Alzheimer’s Society, where volunteers help a person with dementia to continue or rediscover hobbies or activities they love.

Alzheimer’s Society, set up the service in a bid to reconnect people with dementia with their communities and favourite pastimes.

Launched in response to the loneliness and isolation many people with dementia experieence, the service uses a new approach to volunteering.

So popular the charity is now calling on volunteers to come forward, to support the people with dementia. The project can help the sufferer join a local club, watch a football match, or go for a stroll in the park. This service pairs people with dementia and volunteers with shared interests.

Piloted since 2014, ‘Side by Side,’ which is supported by People’s Postcode Lottery, now has a waiting list of people in Portadown waiting to be paired up. It is estimated at present there are around 900 people living with dementia in Craigavon.

Alastair, joined ‘Side by Side,’ six months ago.

“I wanted to take part because I like helping, and it is simple things I can do to help which means a lot to the person,” he said. “And you never know if you will get it yourself, so it is important we help each other.

“My ‘Side by Side’ partner and I go out for a cup of coffee or go for a drive. He is interested in photography so I have said I will take him out to do that. We do different things.

“I help him do his shopping or bring him to my fold for our coffee mornings and he can chat to other people there. It means he has plenty of company and it’s a sociable place for him.”

Alastair continued: “I’ve learned more about what Alzheimer’s disease is like, how it can affect your memory and the way you move. The experience has educated me on what I could expect, because one day it could affect me. You just don’t know.

“I would say to anyone interested in the ‘Side by Side’ project if you have time and enjoy other people’s company you should take part because there is always someone who needs help or some company.”

Alzheimer’s Society Side by Side Manager, Hazel Haworth said: “We want to ensure that every person with dementia in Northern Ireland has the opportunity to access ‘Side by Side.’

If you are interested in becoming a ‘Side by Side’ volunteer, just ring Hazel Haworth on 028 3025 2746. Training will be provided.