Since her husband’s parents both passed away with a dementia related illness, mother of one Karen Penny has taken to walking.
Her walks, however, are a bit longer than the average and she often starts on one side of the country and ends up on the other.
Her latest walk will see her travel around the entire coastline of the UK and Ireland to raise funds for Alzheimer’s Research UK.
In doing so she plans to earn the Guinness World Record for the first woman to complete the coastline walk continuously.
Last year she walked from John O’Groats to Lands’ End to train for her mammoth 20,000 mile charity push to raise £100,000.
The 53 year old set out from her home in Swansea, Wales on 14 January with just a tent and rucksack on her back weighing 17kg (37 lbs).
The back pack also contains other essentials such as lie low, sleeping bag, water and protein bars.
Armed with a tent she says she has only had to use it three times in five and a half weeks.
“People are really supportive, online, on twitter and in person.”
Penny might stay one night with someone and they might have a cousin or a friend in the next village who will put her up. It’s Irish networking at its best.
On Tuesday 12 February, the Welsh native arrived in Midleton a day ahead of schedule.
The retired legal professional has vowed not to come home for four years until she completes her journey, honouring her husband’s parents, who both passed away from Vascular Dementia.
Also known as Multi-Infarct Dementia, Vascular Dementia is caused by problems in the supply of blood to the brain, typically a series of minor strokes, leading to worsening cognitive decline.
Within six months of her diagnosis Karen’s Mother in Law passed away, and within eight years her Father in Law had succumbed to the same disease.
“In the end he couldn’t recognise anyone. He didn’t know his own family, his personality changed, and it was a dreadful time for us”.
“With Alzheimer’s it just keeps getting worse and you see the people you love and care about deteriorating before your eyes. I just want to try to do something” said MS Penny.
At present 5,425 people suffer from dementia in Cork County. Nationally that figure is just over 55,000. Because our society is living longer it’s predicted that, by 2041, as many as 135,000 people in Ireland will have a dementia related disorder. It is also estimated that one in every hundred people aged sixty, on average, will have dementia. When you reach sixty five, your chances of getting the condition double every five years. The second most common type of dementia is called Vascular Dementia and is associated with life style, diabetes and smoking.
Dementia numbers in Ireland are expected to double over the next 20 years.
Now Karen hopes to raise enough money to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and other cognitive related diseases.
To donate to Karen’s charity fundraiser log onto https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/thepennyrollson or check out Karen Penny – the penny rolls on, on Facebook and twitter.