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LIVING 60 : Parkinson’s on the farm

Living with the disease for a decade, Aldor Acres founder Dorothy Anderson doesn’t let it stop her

Armed with a large bottle of water, a colourful hat boasting her nametag, a highly visible but tattered safety vest, her pink cellphone, a freshly applied layer of red lipstick, a well-washed handkerchief tucked in her pocket, and her garbage tongs doubling as a cane at hand, Dorothy Anderson is ready.

She grabs the keys to her trusted set of wheels – namely the farm’s golf cart – and heads off on what she’s sure will be a day full of adventures on her family farm.

Dorothy is the “dor” in Aldor Acres, along with her husband of more than 60 years, Albert.

The couple first opening up their 80-acre farm in Glen Valley to the public for Halloween season some 35-plus years ago. Despite being slowed down due to a somewhat debilitating disease diagnosed a decade ago, Dorothy is not willing to let that halt their events or quash her involvement.

This was obvious on Sunday, April 21, when she and her family (husband, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren) opened up the 252 Street facilities for the first of what is expected to be an annual Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Day at the farm.

Even though she no longer drive a car, Dorothy jumps into the driver’s seat of her versatile golf cart, and heads from her home to the admissions shack on their farmgate operation, to start greeting guests as they arrive for the charity day.

An $18 admission fee – all money from the gate, plus cash donations going to Parkinson Society BC – allowed guests of all ages to visit with many different farm animals (and their spring babies), take a hayride around the property, visit the farm market, and devour some of the food.

Her wish by hosting this special day is to raise some money, but moreover increase awareness about the neurodegenerative disorder – namely Parkinson’s – as well as open dialogue about how common it is and what it means for those living with the disease and their families.

“I want people to know they are not alone,” Dorothy said, referring to some brochures the Parkinson society had on hand for the day saying that about 13,000 British Columbians and one in three Canadians (both men and women and across ethnic lines) living with the disorder. Those numbers are predicted to double by 2040.

At present, the exact cause for Parkinson’s is unknown, and there is no known cure.

Dorothy’s dream to raise money and awareness is eagerly shared by all of her family members. They came out to help around the farm that day, including their granddaughter, Melissa, who manages the farm’s day-to-day operations for them.

“We hope by featuring her story and raising awareness that it may inspire, educate, and help people know they are not alone in their Parkinson’s journey,” Melissa elaborated, convinced her grandmother’s tenacity, stubbornness, and compassion have helped her persevere with Parkinson’s.

While symptoms can include tremors, difficulty with balance, a significant slow down in movement, sleep disturbance, rigidity, and mood disorders, the progression of the disease and symptoms vary with each person.

For Dorothy, who turned 80 in March, she first tweaked to something being off about 10 years ago, when she couldn’t handle wearing a coat, vest, or shoes because they were just too heavy. Her balance was worsening, too, and she was uncertain on her feet.

“I didn’t really know what was going on, and I didn’t know much about [Parkinson’s] at the time,” she recounted.

Dorothy went to the doctor. After endless test ruled out other possibilities – and by then other symptoms started showing, including the shakes – she was told she had Parkinson’s.

She’s still able to do much of what she loves on a daily basis, although likely a combination of age and the progression of the disease have continued to slow her a bit.

In sending out a huge thank you on social media shortly after the inaugural open house, Dorothy and other members of the Anderson family said they were please and honoured to announce that close to $8,000 was raised for the cause.

“Thank you to everyone who came out to support, to spread awareness, to donate, to share personal stories, and to rise up against Parkinson’s disease,” Melissa shared.

While one of the likely symptoms of Parkinson’s is hypomimia, or reduced facial expressions, that doesn’t seem to be impacting Dorothy, who was beaming from ear-to-ear as the day wound down and she said goodbye to many of the last guests.

The farm will be opened to the public next on Father’s Day weekend, followed by their autumn schedule. The Anderson’s are also expecting to be open again next April for a few days, including (usually four days for) Easter and now a day for their Parkinson’s Awareness open house. Aldor Acres also books for private functions such as birthday parties and special occasions.

RELATED WITH VIDEO: Parkinson’s day becomes new Langley tradition


READ MORE: Punch Out Parkinson’s Wellness Centre coming to Langley


• Check out this and other stories in our latest

edition of Living 60+ magazine online.

Roxanne Hooper

About the Author: Roxanne Hooper

I began in the news industry at age 15, but honestly, I knew I wanted to be a community journalist even before that.
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