Ken Wright had spent over two years sleeping on a sofa bed in a one-bedroom, private rented house with a spiral staircase leading to the first floor. This wouldn’t be a problem for most people, but three years ago 53-year-old Ken was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disease of the nervous system affecting one in 500 people in the UK.
A little disheartened from being unsuccessful in applying for two properties through GUHG’s choice-based lettings scheme, run in conjunction with BPHA and three Bedfordshire councils, he continued to apply for suitable properties and was over the moon in April when he was allocated his choice of a one-bedroom bungalow in Hinksley Road, Flitwick.
“I’m very happy to be settled and in my own home” said a happy Ken, “my kids are glad that I have my own place and I can put my own stamp on it. The best things are my lovely garden and how quiet it is here.”
The main symptoms of Parkinson’s can include tremors, rigidity and slowness of movement but can also cause pain, tiredness and depression. For Ken this means he finds everyday tasks, like opening jars and preparing food, or even taking money out of his pocket, incredibly frustrating due to the amount of time it takes him.
Ken had always been a keen sportsman, playing football, rugby and tennis and had twice run the London Marathon (aged 46 and 47) for children’s charities. Despite his debilitating condition he applied to Parkinson’s UK for one of their 50 charity places at the 2016 London Marathon and he was delighted to be successful.
“I needed a challenge; not a new one, but a bigger one” said Ken. “Of course I had to consult with my doctor and undergo a lot of training. It was mind over matter really on the day but I had to walk the last six miles of the course as my knees were causing me pain. I’m proud of my achievement though; I completed the 26.2 mile course in around 6 hours 30 minutes and, more importantly, raised nearly £3,000 in sponsorship for the charity.”
Until February Ken had been working for a local food packaging company but he was signed off work due to his condition. Now he spends his days mostly relaxing in his new home, looking after his excitable two-year-old dog, a chihuahua-papillon cross, and enjoying his love of spicy food at his nearby Indian restaurant. Also keen to help others, Ken has signed up for “The GUHG 100”, a group of residents which Grand Union Housing Group consults with for feedback on policies, strategies and services.
Ken’s three grown-up children live in Northamptonshire and are regular visitors to his home, as are his many friends who live nearby who have been a huge help to him in refurbishing and redecorating his house.
“GUHG’s Aids and Adaptations team have also been a great help,” added Ken. “My bathroom door originally opened inwards but was re-handed to open outwards which gave me more space in the bathroom and will be safer should I have a fall. As my mobility deteriorates I may need the bathroom layout changing but I’m happy with how things are at the moment.”