Sunderland dad copes with dementia by auditioning for TV talent shows

Ken Payne of Penshaw
Ken Payne of Penshaw
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A Sunderland dad has found an alternative way to cope with dementia – auditioning for TV talent shows.

Ken Payne, 61, says his condition has hindered his search for jobs since his diagnosis three years ago.

But he maintains a positive outlook on life, promoting Dementia Awareness Week, as well as raising awareness of the condition while auditioning for both Britain’s Got Talent and the X Factor.

Ken, of Penshaw, was revealed to be suffering from dementia at the age of 58 after his daughters Debbie and Vicki persuaded him to visit his GP after he started having trouble remembering the names of people, objects and food items.

The former social housing manager, who volunteers for organisations including Alzheimer’s Society and Gentoo, now performs songs in a regular 30-minute slot at an Alzheimer’s Society Singing for the Brain group in Sunderland.

He has also written his first song, Cheese and Wine, a romantic ballad devoted to his wife June, which he performed in his BGT audition, where he bowed out after passing the first round.

However he remained undeterred and went on to audition for The X Factor.

“I was delighted to be able to perform my music at the auditions while wearing my trusty Alzheimer’s Society T-shirt”, grandad-of-three Ken told the Alzheimer’s Society magazine Living With Dementia.

“I hope my appearance will let others know there are younger people with dementia and there are things you can do to help your condition.”

Ken says that playing guitar, songwriting and singing keeps his mind active and helps to stop his condition progressing as quickly as it might do otherwise.

He added: “Writing songs helps you to be able to put everything that’s important in your life into words.

“All of my favourite things about my family, friends and activities that I’ve done feature in my songs. I’m always thinking about what to put in my next one.”

Although he enjoys performing, there is a serious message behind Ken’s act as he hopes that sharing his music while speaking widely about his condition will help to get the message out to other people who may have dementia.

“Through my performing I’d like to encourage as many people as possible to go and get the early diagnosis that I did,” he said.