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Feros Care client Darryl Ferney wearing boxing gloves standing in a boxing ring

Is this who you picture when someone says, ‘aged care client’?

A blow-by-blow account of how boxing and fashion powerhouse Darryl is ‘cancelling’ the aged care stereotype  

Just as our trailblazing Feros Care team members aren’t your typical aged care workers, 76-year-old Darryl Ferney isn’t your typical aged care client. 

Boasting an eclectic backstory with a rich tapestry of interesting and downright cool professional and personal highlights, he’s about as vanilla as a rainbow paddle pop. In other words, Darryl obliterates the ‘boring and beige’ stereotype sometimes associated with his age group, and is the personification of an aged care recipient reframing public perception. 

An uppercut to common misconceptions 

First impressions can be very telling, and, in this instance, you know from the outset that this man is certainly not the average Tom, Dick, or Darryl. An accomplished boxer, renovator, and highly successful fashion entrepreneur, there are multiple layers to peel back, each as fascinating as the one before. 

Growing up in Paramatta and discovering a flare for the ring in his teens, Darryl is very passionate about boxing. At the age of 15, he won an impressive 15 out of 17 fights, proving his enthusiasm for the sport was rivalled only by his talent. 

He would compete at the Royal Easter Show where he’d score four show bags for a win. He’d take those show bags and give them to kids in the street, a gesture demonstrative of his generous nature which would continue to shine in the years to come. 

He remained dedicated to the sport for many years, until one day he stumbled upon a new passion. This passion was certainly quite a departure from boxing and little did he know, would mark the beginning of a long and industrious career. 

Meeting ‘the one’, and trading the ring for the rag trade 

Spotting the love of his life, Leonie, at a milk bar at the tender age of 19, it wasn’t long before the two married. 

“He’s very charismatic,” says Leonie, who is equally charismatic we might add. “How could I resist?!” she laughs. 

Wedding photo of Darryl and Leonie Fernney

 Darryl and Leonie went on to have three much-loved children; two daughters and a son whom Leonie raised as a full-time mum, while Darryl worked to financially support the family. 

“When our eldest was around 15, we saw an ad in the paper for a fashion business and thought ‘why not?!’. We bought that shop….and ended up with 16!” 

 Over the next three decades, Darryl and Leonie worked hard to build their thriving business, with Darryl travelling overseas to buy and source fabrics and materials to ensure the garments were ‘just perfect’. 

Moving from locally manufacturing suit ware to their own knit ware, cardigans and jumpers, Darryl’s eye for style, attention to detail, and innate business savviness shaped a very successful and colourful fashion career. 

Charming, chic, and charitable! 

Described as energetic, kind, and imaginative, Darryl wanted to use his creativity and fashion prowess to give back.  

In the 1980s, he and Leonie organised large-scale fashion parades showcasing the latest looks to raise money for children’s leukemia. Held in Westfield shopping centres, RSL clubs, and various other venues, they were always booked to capacity. 

The parades were such a huge hit that Darryl and Leonie raised in excess of one million dollars for the charity. 

Navigating a Parkinson’s diagnosis 

Fast forward to present day, Darryl and Leonie have now been married 56 years and are retired living in Byron Bay. 

In 2022, Darryl was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. The change in cognitive status means that his balance is impaired, and that falls are becoming more and more frequent. The physical ramifications, however, are just the tip of the iceberg, with the disease taking a vast toll on his mental health.  

Looking to improve Darryl’s quality of life, he signed up for a CHSP (Commonwealth Home Services Package) facilitated by Feros Care.  

Darryl receives weekly visits from Feros physiotherapist Kerry Hardey to help build his strength, balance and coordination, and a personal alarm to alert help if he falls whilst alone.  

Not all heroes wear capes – some wear Feros uniforms and boxing gloves! 

Kerry had the genius idea to incorporate boxing into Darryl’s care, which has proved to be lifechanging for Darryl – particularly from a mental health perspective. 

“I’d never done boxing or used it in my programs, but I really wanted to tap into something that would motivate Darryl,” reflects Kerry.  

“Diseases like Parkinson’s don’t just impact people physically, but very much psychologically too. 

To get the best out of clients, their program needs to be very holistic and make them want to give the physio exercises their all. That’s why I added boxing for Darryl.”  

“Darryl’s smile after doing a (boxing) set is just amazing – he absolutely lights up.” 

In fact, Kerry herself has been so inspired by Darryl and his love of boxing, that she has even taken up Muay Thai (a Thai style of boxing)! 

Feros – just like family 

Leonie wholeheartedly agrees with Kerry’s sentiments, seeing her husband rediscover his zest for life. 

“The diagnosis has been very hard for him as he doesn’t feel like he’s the man he once was. But, since meeting Kerry, there’s been a big shift. They have such a unique and truly wonderful connection, and she knows how to get the best from him. He just loves her – and so do I.”  

Her gratitude extends to the greater Feros Care team, whom she says have been instrumental in helping Darryl live an all-round better quality of life. 

“Feros have guided Darryl and myself along this difficult journey with knowledge, compassion and professionalism, feeling more like family than just providers.”  

“They’re with us every step of the way.” 

Not your typical aged care worker? Good, because we’re not your typical aged care organisation.  

Apply your skills in a meaningful career that makes a difference in the lives of seniors. Find out more and view our job vacancies here.  

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