The Ashfield (Sydney) Support Group was established in March 2019, so it is now celebrating its first anniversary with Parkinson’s NSW.
The Group meets in the Cardinal Freeman Village – a retirement community – and is open to members of the public as well as residents of the Village.
Support Group Leader Irene Sykes is not living with Parkinson’s but has close connections with people who are, so she was keen to start up a group to help people living with Parkinson’s in the Village come together and support each other.
She describes the style of the Group as: “…informational, over a cuppa.”
Ashfield attracts up to 16 participants per meeting and includes a Carers Group which was established within a week after the main Group’s first meeting.
The Support Group meets monthly from February to December, with a party in the final month of the year. The two groups come together to celebrate at the Christmas party.
“Our Group’s main strength is our regular gatherings that are both sociable and informational. We do practical things together like share exercises downloaded from YouTube – and on the social side, we enjoy bus trips and other excursions,” said Irene.
Fundraising is not a formal policy of the Group and a joint decision was made to leave it to the discretion of individuals to make donations as they wish.
Irene explained: “We find that it is working well for us having a Group Leader without Parkinson’s – but of course we encourage input, advice and shared experiences from participants who are living with Parkinson’s.
“If I had to summarise our Support Group’s approach, it would be: ‘Keep it simple, practical and social – and listen a lot!”
Irene commented that living in this retirement village for a number of years has taught her about the bravery of elderly people. “I have become aware that it is usually the person living with the most difficulties who manages a cheery smile and a pleasant greeting. This has been most humbling,” she said.
“In 2015 my husband died, and I was quite lost for a few years while coming to terms with this new way of living. My family were very supportive but had to get on with their own lives.
“It was about that time that many new residents came into the Village and I became aware of some of the daily problems with which they have to cope. There seemed to be a number of people living with Parkinson’s.”
“I approached our Wellness Officer, our Manager and Parkinson’s NSW and was given the ‘All Clear’ to start up a Support Group for those people living with Parkinson’s and a second group for all Carers in this village,” said Irene