A Coventry couple say their life has completely changed since one of them was diagnosed with Parkinson’s but have praised how local venues go above and beyond to make them feel comfortable when they are out in the city centre.
John and Ellen have been together for 35 years and John was diagnosed with Parkinson’s seven years ago.
As his condition has deteriorated, and Ellen is now his full-time carer, it has been increasingly difficult for the couple to enjoy meals out, go to the theatre and do the things that they love to do.
Ellen, speaking at a befriending event at the Belgrade Theatre organised by Coventry Building Society, said: “John having Parkinson’s has changed our lives completely.
“Before the pandemic it wasn’t too bad and we were able to go out, but after being in total lockdown for 18 months, like others John deteriorated due to lack of activity and not seeing people.
“It was really hard and since then it has been difficult for us to find places to go.”
John, who worked as a maintenance manager at Coventry University and the University of Warwick before retiring, still plays a key role as chairman of The Firebird Singers choir which he is passionate about.
The Coundon couple have always enjoyed going out to eat and taking in a show at the theatre – with John once being part of a group called the West End Showstoppers.
Ellen, 67, has praised cafés, restaurants and theatres in the city for their understanding of John’s condition and says that since the pandemic businesses are starting to go the extra mile to make them feel comfortable.
Businesses in the city are gearing up for the Cov Cares Awards in June which are set to celebrate organisations that boost social connections.
The awards seek to highlight businesses that boost communities in Coventry, shining a light on community-focused organisations and individuals that are bringing a sense of belonging and connection to customers every day.
Ellen added: “John still wants to do the things he loves, for example running the Firebird Singers choir in Meriden and they have all been really understanding about his condition.
“We have to keep busy for both his mental health and mine. We used to go out for meals all the time and that’s something we are trying to keep going and for us it’s about having as much privacy as possible in a restaurant.
“We’ve regularly been to Tales of Tea at St Mary’s Guildhall and Mae the manager always welcomes us and understand our needs, and gives us the same table which we both feel comfortable at and appreciate.
“More and more places now understand our needs when you ring up to explain.” (Ellen from Coventry)
“John has always been into his theatre shows and we still get the chance to visit the Belgrade and The Albany. The Albany provides free tickets for carers and that allows us to get out there more.
“Thanks to Coventry Building Society and the lovely Emma, who welcomes us with open arms every time at the Belgrade Theatre. It wouldn’t happen without her and Helen at the Belgrade.
“For us, it’s all about someone taking the time to understand our situation, and it is really appreciated when places go the extra mile to make us feel comfortable.”
The Cov Cares Awards have been developed through a partnership between Grapevine Coventry and Warwickshire, Visit Coventry, Coventry Business Improvement District, Square One, Coventry Building Society, McDonald’s, Coventry University Students’ Union and PET-Xi Training.
More than 400 nominations have been received so far – with many getting repeat votes – but the judging panel want to uncover even more special people, places and spaces going the extra mile for Coventry citizens.
Nominations for the Cov Cares Awards close on Monday 15 May. The awards ceremony will take place on Wednesday 21 June at Coventry University’s Square One entertainment venue.
To find out more and to nominate a business or individual for an award visit www.covcaresawards.co.uk.
Connecting for Good Cov
Connecting for Good Cov is our movement against isolation in Coventry, sparked by Grapevine and local people. Please visit the website to learn more and find out how to get involved www.connectingforgoodcov.com.
Our team of community organisers helped co-found the Cov Cares Awards to map connection and belonging across the city.