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Senior Undertakes Extensive Walkathon

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John Plett Crop
John Plett alongside PCH aides Grace and Li. Elizabeth Plett

John Plett is a 94-year-old resident of the Heritage Life Personal Care Home, where he has lived since May 2019. His wife Annie was also a resident there until her passing in August 2019.

John and Annie were turkey and grain farmers in the Blumenort area for many years. John, who has congestive heart failure, continues to be active and insists on walking every day he can.

When John’s family heard about a remarkable fundraising effort by an isolated senior in Britain, they approached him with the idea of doing something similar. John agreed and began to count his steps to measure what distance he could accomplish.

Today, John is committed to walking 2,500 steps per day, and the Plett family has helped him organize a campaign through the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to raise $9,400—$100 for each year of John’s life—for food relief around the world.

John’s walkathon gives him and his family something to pay attention to besides the hardships caused by COVID-19.

“He’ll say he has the best room and he is well taken care of,” says Elizabeth Plett on behalf of her father. “He makes a really strong effort to be positive about everything, even if it’s hard.”

Elizabeth says the family used to make sure he got a visit every day, but during the pandemic he’s had to go without visitors for quite a while.

“We would like to go back to going everyday and taking him out,” she says. “Safety is a number one issue, for sure, but mental health is important, too. I think we’re a bit torn between keeping him safe and keeping him mentally well.”

As John lives through these lonely times, he enjoys going for walks, especially since health issues keep him from enjoying other common distractions.

“His vision is poor,” says Elizabeth. “He has macular degeneration, so he can’t read or watch TV well, and he is kind of limited in what he can do in his day. He has congestive heart failure, so his breathing is really tough, but he is completely self-motivated to walk. He has always been a walker and he would tell you you have to start early; 80 is too late.”

John’s walkathon was off to a bumpy start when the weather turned chilly in May, and he had to walk for a few days in a parka and mittens. When the weather gets bad, he walks inside, seven days a week, never missing a day.

That is, until last week when both his walker and his phone had to go in for repairs. But it was the walker that delayed John’s progress, not the phone, since he counts all his steps manually.

Elizabeth describes John’s attitude toward walking as contagious and the family has in the past joined him on his walks—if he wasn’t already done when they came to visit. At his previous residence, his neighbours often walked with him too.

“He liked it when other residents would walk with him [at his previous home] in Steinbach. Right now, there is nobody who really walks with him. And we can only visit with him outside by appointment,” says Elizabeth. “But hopefully soon we could walk with him or other residents could join him.”

John and his family have been inviting friends and neighbours to get involved by donating to MCC’s international food relief program. The Plett family is happy to see something positive come out of this challenging time.

“Dad has always believed in sharing what he has with others and helping the less fortunate, so I gave him a call to ask him where he’d like to donate to,” Elizabeth says. “There are so many good options to donate to, so we gave him a few options and he chose MCC, which has a reputable giving registry.”

According to the MCC website, more than 790 million people do not have enough to eat.

“It’s not that there isn’t enough food in the world, but disaster, poverty or unfair policies mean people can’t access it,” says the MCC website. “A gift of food gives families new ways to expand harvests, increase income and improve nutrition.”

For more information

You can find out more about John’s walkathon, and contribute to the cause, here: https://donate.mcccanada.ca/registry/john-pletts-walkathon-food-relief

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