A fearless great grandfather is preparing to take part in a daring zip-wire ride off the Tyne Bridge in memory of his late wife.
Harold Robson, 93, has signed up for the challenge in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society.
His wife Joan – his partner for 77 years – was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2008 and passed away in March 2015.
Harold, of Whitley Bay, said: “People say I’m quite mad to contemplate zip-wiring at my age, and that includes members of my own family.
“But I saw someone on TV do it and always fancied having a go – I just never had a reason until now.
“So I contacted the company behind it and asked if there were any age restrictions. They told me you had to be over 18 so I said no problem, sign me up!”
The father-of-three, who has seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, met wife Joan in 1938, and married in 1948.
Joan died just two weeks before the couple’s 67th wedding anniversary, seven years after her diagnosis.
Harold said: “From the moment we were told Joan had Alzheimer’s, I knew what the final outcome would be. Thankfully, she did not.
“Emotionally, it can get pretty raw at times but I’m coping OK, although I found New Year quite difficult. I’m fortunate in that I have a wonderfully supportive family and very good neighbours.”
Two of Harold’s grandchildren – Jenny, 34, and Miriam, 29 – will join him for the challenge on April 16.
He said: “I didn’t mention the zip wire ride to any of the family before putting my name down – I just told them I was doing it. But I’m really pleased Jenny and Miriam will be there too.
“I’ve never done anything quite like this before. I’m really looking forward to it.”
To sponsor Harold, visit www.justgiving.com/haroldrobson
Harold, former company secretary of Newcastle-based aviation de-icing specialists Kilfrost, said he failed to pick up on the early signs of his wife’s dementia.
He recalled: “She just started to become a little forgetful and I simply put it down to age.
“She went into hospital to get treatment for a urinary tract infection and it was then that they noticed something was amiss and she was referred to a memory clinic.”
Joan continued to live at home with Harold, with the support of North Tyneside Council’s Care Call service.
However, everything changed in 2011 when Harold discovered Joan collapsed on the bathroom floor after suffering a stroke.
He said: “Within 50 minutes she was in hospital and it became quite clear she would not be coming home.”
She was in there for six weeks before being admitted to Willow Lodge residential care home.
Over the following three-and-a-half years Harold visited his wife six days a week, and arranged for a family member or friend to visit on a Sunday.
He said: “From the moment she went into care she never once asked about our home – it was as if it had just gone from her mind.
“But she still recognised family members and, fortunately, never developed any of the more distressing symptoms of dementia such as behaving in an erratic or aggressive manner.”
He added: “I wanted to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society because they provide such an excellent service
“We’ve set ourselves a target figure of £1,000, and given the interest people have shown in what we’re doing I think that is well within our reach.”
Hazel Cuthbertson, Alzheimer’s Society regional operations manager, said: “I often feel humbled by the lengths people go to in their efforts to support us, but this leaves me almost speechless.
“We rely on people like Harold not only to raise much-needed funds to help us operate and expand our services across the region, but also to raise awareness of dementia in general.
“Our goal is to create a truly dementia-friendly society, and people like Harold are helping us to make that possible.”