Parkinson’s is the second most common neurological disease in Australia after dementia, with one person being diagnosed every 40 minutes.
Local resident at Stockland’s Affinity Retirement Village, Kerren Horner, is one of these sufferers.
“I was diagnosed about seven years ago now,” said Kerren. “I was a plumber at the time and a few blokes at work actually pointed out that I had a slight tremor. I didn’t think too much of it until a little later when they said that my arm didn’t swing much when I walked.”
“That’s when I decided to go get it checked out at the doctor; they were pretty quickly confident that it was Parkinson’s,” he continued. “I was 59 years old.”
Kerren retired soon after, and he and his wife of 14 years, Lee, decided to downsize their house and move into Affinity Retirement Village in Baldivis.
“Making that move was one of the best decisions of our lives,” said Kerren. “For me, it’s nice because you can do as much or as little as you want here. There are so many options for activities and clubs; I’m part of the sketching and lawn bowls clubs, but we also like to socialise with friends at the community shed.”
Lee enjoys the socialising as well, in particular having tea with nearby neighbours. But it’s the security that she found most appealing about the move. “It’s a gated community so we don’t have to worry about safety,” she said. “We can go away on holidays and know that our home is protected and being well looked after.”
“There is also far less maintenance,” she continued. “There are gardeners that keep the outside of our home looking beautiful, plus our backyard is artificial grass so no more needing to mow the lawn.”
It was in their new home that Kerren realised the therapeutic benefits that art had on his Parkinson’s symptoms, in particular his tremor.
“I had always been interested in art but one day I decided to just start sketching,” he said. “That has since turned into oil painting, abstract pour art, and now, woodworking. I’ve just finished my first violin which took me about six months to complete.”
“I was surprised at how good the sound quality was when it was played for the first time,” he continued. “I had never made anything with wood before.”
While woodworking does have a mild effect on his tremor, it’s sketching and painting that are especially soothing and therapeutic for him. “Lee will come bring me a tea and see how I’m doing, but otherwise I get so absorbed in the art that I completely lose track of time and space. I find that I can paint for hours and not experience the tremor once. It’s like it disappears while I’m working on my art.”
Kerren draws inspiration from much of his everyday landscapes. “I’ll be out and see something and think ‘I’m going to try that when I get home’.” He also thinks back to the unique scenery of his childhood, having grown up in Kalgoorie-Boulder.
Kerren estimates that he makes around two to three paintings in a given month. “We put some of our art, me and the sketching club, in a display area in the Village and get a lot of encouraging feedback from the community,” he said. “It’s a great conversation starter and it’s nice to hear such kind things about the paintings I work hard on.”
While he appreciates the support he receives, Kerren emphasises that he really wants people to take away one key message: that disabilities should never hold you back from doing something that you love.