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A safe place to socialise for Alzheimers patients

Inside Alzheimer’s Society Manawatu’s new purpose-built Marion Kennedy Centre.

At any one time 400 patients and 600 caregivers utilise Alzheimers Society Manawatu’s Marion Kennedy Centre. It is a home away from home for those people affected by dementia, enabling them a safe place to socialise and reconnect with others and providing their caregivers with much needed respite support.

However, due to the number of people affected by dementia nationwide predicted to treble in the next 30 years, it soon became evident to the Society that their much-loved Marion Kennedy Centre would be too small to meet the growing need for its services. The centre too was not dementia friendly creating a number of health and safety risks for their clients.

Thanks to the quick thinking and foresight of the Society’s staff and management, when the property behind them became available to purchase they jumped at the chance to expand their facilities.

“A bequest received in 2015 enabled us to purchase the back property,” Alzheimer’s Society Manawatu Project Manager, Kate Malone says.

“A feasibility study confirmed that it would be better to remove the existing building and build a new purpose built facility, whilst retaining our current building on Featherston Street for additional meeting rooms and offices, and allowing further extension of services for younger people with early onset dementia.”

With land secured, Alzheimer’s Society Manawatu reached out to Eastern and Central Community Trust, among other trusts and foundations, for a grant to contribute to their new build.
Eastern and Central Community Trust Chair, Shelly Mitchell-Jenkins, said it was an honour to support this far-reaching cause with a grant of $150,000.

The new purpose-built Marion Kennedy Centre, named after a local nurse who gifted her house to the Society, will provide double capacity – enabling the society to cater for the growing numbers of people needing access to services.

“A day programme will be offered to all those affected by dementia, with cognitive stimulation therapy being embedded throughout all programmes offered. An exercise programme will also be available. Different programmes are developed depending on our clients’ interests. We envisage carer support groups being facilitated at the new premises too,” says Tracy Lynn, Manager at Alzheimers Society Manawatu.

Interestingly, the new building will be used to demonstrate how appropriate design can improve the quality of life for dementia clients and extend the period of time before full time care is required.

“The need for spaces and places to become more dementia friendly is increasing and the new building will enable the Society to better educate and demonstrate to designers how this can be done,” Kate says.

After a five-year journey, the new Marion Kennedy Centre is set to open this winter at 12 Elliott Street, depending on COVID-19 restrictions, much to the delight of patients, caregivers, staff, volunteers and funders.

A caregiver expressed his gratitude recently by saying “Only those who have had to care for a loved one who has Alzheimers/Dementia can understand the frustration and sense of loss at the predicament they find themselves in.

“The Marion Kennedy Centre has saved my life, offering my wife an opportunity to socialise with other people and me a chance to catch up with chores or see friends and family.”