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Vernon couple share Alzheimer’s journey

Jim and Lorraine Rennie named honourees for annual Walk For Alzheimer’s May 28 at Polson Park
Lorraine and Jim Rennie are the honourees for the North Okanagan IG Wealth Management Walk For Alzheimer’s Sunday, May 28, at Vernon’s Polson Park. (Contributed)

Five decades ago, inside a newsroom at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, two students were churning out a daily student newspaper, and falling in love along the way.

Jim Rennie was the volunteer managing editor, taken with the bright, beautiful editor-in-chief, Lorraine. As soon as their last edition of The Gateway went to press, the pair, at just 20- and 21-years-old, committed to spending the rest of their lives together.

“We’ve been married for 55 years, and it still amazes me that we were smart enough to know at that time,” said Lorraine.

The young couple could never have predicted the highs and lows ahead – and how those challenges would help prepare them for the journey they find themselves on today.

Jim moved from journalism into corporate public relations, and Lorraine worked as a school library technician, but they continued to work together to build what Jim describes as “the perfect family.” Jim and Lorraine are proud parents of two children and grandparents to one. They’re also both cancer survivors, with Lorraine surviving thyroid cancer in 1989, when they still had young kids at home, and Jim beating colon cancer in 2007.

Overcoming cancer twice has given them the mindset that they can face anything together – including Jim’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

“It’s just the road that I’m on,” Jim says. “I wasn’t expecting it, but I’m still me.”

In 2019, Jim started losing track of things, but didn’t immediately see it as an issue. As a generally forgetful person, he had always relied on making lists for himself and didn’t think too much of the memory loss. When hearing, focus and processing new information eventually became an issue, Jim and Lorraine sought help.

“It wasn’t overnight,” Jim says. “I thought I was just getting older. I didn’t feel any sudden change.”

The Rennies experienced some delays in accessing care due to the pandemic, with Jim’s official diagnosis coming in 2021, once they moved from Calgary to Vernon to be closer to their children and connected with a local specialist. Now that they’re here, they’re enjoying B.C. summers, short walks to the lake and a closer relationship with their family.

They’re also building social connections through the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s programs and services. Lorraine attends webinars and learns from other care partners in a caregiver support group, while they both appreciate meeting people they can relate to at Minds in Motion, the society’s social and fitness program.

“I like going there and seeing the same faces and knowing that we’re all just ordinary people,” Jim says.

Back at home, Jim sings and plays guitar to folk and pop favourites, while Lorraine recharges by doing yoga classes on Zoom. While the experience of cancer built their resiliency and acceptance, it didn’t prepare them for the unpredictability of dementia, which was surprising for Lorraine. She encourages other caregivers to find a way to take care of themselves, too.

“Tell yourself every day that you’re doing the best you can, and make some time for yourself,” she says.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen. It could be a quick change or stage by stage,” Jim adds. “There are some changes, but I’m still me.”

Join Jim and Lorraine on Sunday, May 28, for the North Okanagan IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s at Vernon’s Polson Park.

Registration will begin at 11:30 a.m. and the walk commences at 12:30 p.m.

Registration online is easy and recommended to faster check in at the walk. Visit and select North Okanagan as the community.

READ MORE: Vernon Alzheimer’s walk shifts to downtown park

READ MORE: Personal connection for Vernon Walk For Alzheimer’s chair

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