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Smiles for seniors

Allan Kirk with his “rambling” exhibit. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN



Masterton’s Allan Kirk works tirelessly to put smiles on the faces of the elderly, especially those living in rest homes.

His trust, Smiles for Seniors, started off years ago with an interactive fluffy robotic dog, which still sits in his lounge today.

It barks, begs, sits, and pants, and is much-loved by residents of rest homes around the lower half of the North Island.

Since 2010, Mr Kirk has brought the life-size Labrador pup around to rest homes, providing residents with an interactive show.

“We went into a rest home in Masterton and the next minute one of these older guys started talking to his carer about his own dog.

“I thought nothing of it and we carried on, but when we came out the head of the place said, do you realise what you’ve done?

“They said the man hadn’t spoken since he came to them 10 months prior.”

After collecting hundreds of other interactive robotic creatures of all kinds, Mr Kirk said he was ready to move on into other areas of light entertainment for the elderly.

He debuted his latest venture, Picture the Word, at the Aging with Attitude expo on Monday in Masterton.

“It’s a very different art exhibition,” he said.

“People viewing the portable exhibition are given a list of words, then they go around and match each word on the list to an exhibit.”

There are 10 exhibits in total, all created by Mr Kirk using odd bits and bobs he has sourced from shops and online.

One match for example is the word “rambling”, which goes with an exhibit of a ram wearing some bling.

“It’s all plays on words and it’s a bit of a challenge but also a lot of fun”.

Mr Kirk hopes to introduce the exhibition to Wairarapa rest homes soon to keep residents entertained.

“These days rest homes are beginning to get people more compos mentis than they used to – more able to think for themselves.

“Before, they used to be almost shells, but what with housing costs and not as much care from the government, a lot of able-minded elderly are ending up in rest homes.

“Because of that, we can get away with doing some more logical activities and they can really enjoy it.”

He said it was “quite incredible” to watch people in rest homes come alive with the entertainment.

“You truly get rewarded by the smiles when you go there and perform.”

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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