For many people, living a long, happy life filled with love and laughter is the ultimate dream. For Westerleigh PARC resident Jack, it’s reality. The 91-year-old, who originally hails from Newfoundland, has made it his mission to touch as many lives as possible with positivity and charm. And based on the stories he’s got to share, he’s definitely succeeding.
As a Westerleigh ambassador for new residents, he not only ensures his neighbours are well-settled, he also takes it upon himself to make sure they’re well entertained. “About four months after I got here, I said, ‘I think I’ll add some extra fun to this place.’ That’s when I got into the costume routine.”
Whether it’s Easter, Halloween or just a regular day, Jack often dons a costume and acts in character for the residents. “At Eastertime, I go down to Purdy’s and I buy $90 worth of Easter eggs. And in my Easter bunny costume, I’ll run around and put Easter eggs all over the place.”
He’s also the talk of the residence for his portrayal of the Royal family along with Westerleigh Active Living Manager, Miho Ward. “Miho and I get along so well. We did a little skit – she dressed up as Camilla and I dressed up as Charles. And we took the place by storm. I make it my little effort to make things better. I don’t have to do it but it’s just part of my makeup, I guess. I just enjoy people.”
Of course it hasn’t all been costumed fun – he’s had his fair share of challenging times, too. Jack originally moved in with his wife of 66 years, Mona. But only six months later, her dementia had progressed to the point where she needed to move to higher care. A year later, she passed away. “When my wife moved out, it was a pretty bad time. I miss her. But in spite of that, I’ve enjoyed it here. I really have. It’s been good for me, and I think I’ve been good for this place.”
Read on for a look at a day in the life of Jack at Westerleigh.
A Day in the Life of Jack at Westerleigh
“Normally I get up and get my breakfast and make my bed and sit and watch the news.”
“I’ve always been very athletic. I’ve been in sports all my life. When I came here I continued training and continued to use the gym extensively. Usually early, I’ll go down to the gym before they have the gym class. I do all the weight stuff, the rowing and a lot of stretch work. And if the day is half decent, I go out for a short walk.”
“There’s cribbage on Wednesday and Saturday, and I’m very active in the Cribbage Club.”
“I play the piano a lot. I’m certainly not an accomplished pianist, I just play because I like to. I play almost every night. I’ll go after dinner and sit down at the piano and plunk away at all the old songs. ‘On Top of Old Smokey’ is one of my favourite songs. I can read music but I’ve never had a music lesson in my life. I just improvise and have fun on the piano.”
“I spend a lot of time on my rugs. When I was young, my dad taught us to do latch hook rugs. So I ordered one and it was a Santa Claus with a cat at his feet and a little dog in his lap and the fireplace in the background. It turned out absolutely beautifully. When I got it finished, I said, ‘Well, what am I going to do with it?’ My daughter said, ‘Well, you know, your granddaughter would love to have that.’ So I said, ‘Okay. I’ll pack it up and send it over to her for Christmas.’ And of course, that started a riot. I had to do them for all my granddaughters. Each one takes me about three months to do. Eventually everyone in our family including daughters, sons, grandchildren and extended family all wanted a specially made rug! So to date, I have made over 10 rugs!”