Just say hello: how one Sydney man is tackling the social prejudice around people living with dementia

Jim takes his wheelchair-bound wife Maureen, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia four years ago, for a walk wearing a T-shirt that asks people to say “hello” to her.

Jim takes Maureen to the beach at Manly, 17km northeast of the Sydney CBD, around three times a week for a coffee, lunch, and a stroll from Queenscliff to Shelly Beach if the weather is good enough.

While on their walks, Jim began to notice his wife attempting to faintly say “excuse me” to people walking towards her and reach out for people’s hands which unfortunately went unnoticed.

Jim did not want Maureen to feel forgotten from the community where she had spent her life, due to her disease, so he had an idea to create a custom-made shirt, resulting in the couple becoming more approachable.

Since then, the pair has been pleasantly overwhelmed with how many friendly people from all walks of life are taking the time out of their day to come and say hello.

“What surprised me initially was that so many people were foreign tourists from all over the world,” Jim told the Manly Observer.


“I’d really like to thank all the people that have stopped by and had a chat to Maureen, they really brighten her day, which brightens mine… just today as I was walking along, a fella came up and wanted to buy me a cup of coffee!”

 

Jim and Maureen on their wedding day 55 years ago.

Jim was reluctant to be interviewed yet realised he had an important message to convey.

“I’m no expert, but as I walk along Manly Beach, I’ve been doing it for four years, I noticed a lot of people with some sort of handicap or were walking with a carer that looked lonely,” he said.

“I’ll go up to them and say hello, to have a chat to them and I think more people should do that and just notice the people around them.”

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A special thanks to our contributors

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Journalist

Journalist

Caroline has a wealth of experience writing within the retirement and aged care sector and is a contributing journalist for the Villages.com.au and agedcare101 blog and accompanying newsletters.

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Ian Horswill

Journalist

Ian is a journalist, writer and sub-editor for the aged care sector, working at The DCM Group. He writes for The Weekly Source, agedcare101, villages.com.au and the DCM Institute fortnightly newsletter Friday. Ian is in daily contact with CEOs of retirement living, land lease and the aged care operations and makes a new contact every week. He investigates media releases, LinkedIn and Facebook for a good source for ideas for stories.

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Lauren Broomham

Retirement and Aged Care Journalist

Lauren is a journalist for villages.com.au, agedcare101 and The Donaldson Sisters. Growing up in a big family in small town communities, she has always had a love for the written word, joining her local library at the age of six months. With over eight years' experience in writing and editing, she is a keen follower of news and current affairs with a nose for a good story.

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Jill Donaldson

Physiotherapist

Jill has been practicing as a clinical physiotherapist for 30 years. For the last 13 years she has worked solely in the Aged Care sector in more than 50 metropolitan and regional facilities. Jill has also toured care facilities in the US and Africa and is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff who care for them. She researches and writes for DCM Media.

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Chris Baynes

DCM Media, agedcare101

Chris has been a journalist and publisher in the retirement village and aged care sectors for 11 years. He has visited over 250 retirement villages and 50 aged care facilities both within Australia and internationally. Chris is a regular speaker at industry conferences plus is a frequent radio commentator.

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Annie Donaldson

Nurse and Carer

Annie has a long career in both nursing and the media. She has planned and co-ordinated the medical support from both international TV productions and major stadium events. In recent years she has been a primary family carer plus involved in structured carer support.