A COLNE Valley pensioner has been given a new lease of life thanks to an innovative charity project.

Marjorie Palmer, 89, was resigned to spending most of her time stuck in her Linthwaite home.

The Alzheimer’s sufferer loved to walk, but her illness meant she was unable to get out and about as she had done previously and at times had even been found wandering by the police.

But now, thanks to a scheme called Shared Lives, run by Kirklees Council, she can enjoy the countryside once more.

She does so with Shared Lives volunteer Lynda Taylor – one of several people to give up their time to work with people with illness or disabilities.

Lynda, too, loves walking and the pair are now enjoying regular outings.

The scheme has already changed lives across the Holme Valley and the rest of Huddersfield for the better.

Since she was paired with a Shared Lives carer, Marjorie can indulge her walking hobby in safety.

Shared Lives carers offer help to people with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, mental health needs or older people so they can maintain their independence and lead the life they want.

This opportunity also gives family carers the break they need, helping them to carry on their caring role.

Marjorie was diagnosed with Alzheimer's several years ago and was referred to the Shared Lives team by her daughter, Kate Parker, who is her main carer.

Kate, who lives several miles away in Holme Valley, was worried because Marjorie’s condition meant she was getting lost while out walking and was sometimes even brought home by the police.

Kate thought the level of risk was too high so she referred her to the Shared Lives team who matched her with Lynda Taylor, a Shared Lives carer, aged 60, from Marsden who also enjoys hill walking and lives on the same bus route as Marjorie.

The Shared Lives scheme has changed Marjorie’s life considerably and Lynda sees her twice a week for up to three hours at a time.

They go hill walking around Blackmoorfoot Reservoir if the weather is fine, or alternatively they might catch a bus to a local market and shop for Marjorie’s tea.

Marjorie always remembers to wait for Lynda as Lynda rings her first thing to remind her it’s “a walking day”.

Marjorie said: “It is the highlight of my week. I count down the days till I see Lynda again.”

Kate described Lynda as a “lifesaver” and said: “Walking is mum’s life.

“It’s really good to know that she can continue her walking with someone that we get on so well with and trust completely.”

Lynda said: “Marjorie is a lovely lady who I enjoy spending time with.

“Our walks are a great opportunity to clear the mind and have a good chat – they make you feel like a new person.

“I feel proud to be a Shared Lives carer. It’s great to be able to make such a difference to someone’s life.”

Clr Molly Walton, Kirklees Council, cabinet member for adult social care, said: “People like Lynda are the real heroines of our community as are all the others taking part in the scheme and without them there wouldn’t be a Shared Lives Project.

“I thank them all for their caring and commitment.”

She added: “Shared Lives is a great scheme, giving people unique support. Shared Lives carers offer different amounts of support, depending on their availability – anything from a few hours a week, a short break to a weekend stay and offering someone a long-term home.”

All Shared Lives carers are given training and paid an allowance for the support they provide.

This year across Kirklees more than 90 people have been supported by Shared Lives. Of them, 32 have a permanent home with Shared Lives carers and 60 people benefit from short breaks with Shared Lives carers.

For information about becoming a Shared Lives carer call 01484 226520.