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'Hobbies may help people with dementia,' says psychiatrist as Morris Minor enthusiast hits the road

It's World Alzheimer's Day, and as one Auckland man with the dementia told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp of his love of Morris Minor cars, a psychiatrist said hobbies may help people with the disorder.

Diagnosed with early onset dementia in his fifties, Jeff Attwood's 'Morrie' has also been his medicine, his wife Doreen Attwood said. 

"Wonderful medicine. It's better than any tablet you can take, the best medicine that Jeff could have had," she said.

Psychiatrist Dr Gary Cheung psychiatrist said hobbies may help people with dementia. 

"We are doing some research on a treatment called cognitive stimulation therapy at the moment," Dr Cheung said.

But hobbies don't only help the ill.

"I think there's plenty of research out there now showing doing activities with other people, or exercising with other people, is more beneficial than doing them alone," Dr Cheung said.

When Jeff and Doreen go driving, romantic memories ride along.

"We met at the old Papatoe Dance Hall. Bill Sevesi's band there was great," Jeff recalled.

They courted in Jeff's first 'Morrie Minor' and have been married almost 54 years.

"He sold it when he went into business before we got married to buy a van that was more practical," Doreen said.

When Jeff saw a doer-upper Morris Minor convertible in the paper several decades later, it was irresistible.

Aged just 54, Jeff was diagnosed with young onset dementia, and 20 years on he moves slowly and needs a cane.  

He's had three strokes, But the bigger problems aren't so easy to see.

"Forgetfulness, that's one of the big things. Forgetting people's names," he said.

Jeff and Doreen made a decision to live for life and get the convertible back on the road.

"We just did it. It's only recently that dementia and hobbies have been linked," Doreen said.

The couple have thanked Dementia Auckland for helping them with Jeff's condition. 

And if you're in doubt about Dementia, as Doreen was when she noticed changes in Jeff 20 years ago, get in touch with your doctor. 

Jeff Attwood was diagnosed with the condition in his early fifties. Source: Seven Sharp

We just did it. It's only recently that dementia and hobbies have been linked - Doreen Atwell