Australia’s oldest person has an interesting hobby. He enjoys knitting sweaters for penguins who were injured in an oil spill.
Have you ever been asked to do something, but you were too nice to say no? And then the thing you were asked to do ends up becoming you favourite thing ever?
Well, that is exactly what happened with Albert Date.
At the ripe young age of 109, he is officially Australia’s oldest living man. Albert currently resides in a nursing home in New South Wales. A few nurses at the nursing home had heard that Albert was an expert knitter, so when they saw a story stating that penguins needed sweaters, they knew Albert was the right person to ask.
The self-taught knitter, who refined his skills after making a baby jacket for his nephew in the 1930s, has seven children and 20 grandchildren, and “about the same amount” of great grandchildren. According to a profile on The Daily Telegraph in 2014, Alfie remembers the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and the declaration of World War one. He told the newspaper his secret to a long life is simply “waking up every morning.”
The need for ‘jumpers’ for penguins began when there was an oil spill which affected these little penguins. These adorable birds are found in Southern Australia as well as New Zealand. Experts believe that there is a lone colony of only about 32,000 little penguins that are still alive located on Phillip Island. These numbers are alarmingly low due to the catastrophic oil spill.
Victoria’s Phillip Island Penguin Foundation issued a call for help in 2013. The knitted jumpers are useful for the penguins because when penguins are covered in oil, it gets into their feathers making them stick together. This makes it hard to swim and hunt for food.
When oiled penguins arrive at the foundation, they are given a jacket to wear so that they don’t consume the toxins or preen their feathers. In 2001, 438 penguins were affected in an oil spill at Phillip Island and by using the knitted outfits, 96% of the penguins were rehabilitated at the clinic, according to the foundation’s website.
When the nurses at Albert’s home heard about the ever-growing need for the hand knitted jumpers, they instantly thought of Albert and his talents. They brought him the yarn to use, and he went to work.
He had only been in the nursing home for about 12 hours when he was asked about his knitting skills for this amazing cause. “The girls who used to work for me, they’ll tell you I’m a sucker. I can’t say no. It’s a good way of getting along in life. You make friends all the time but you don’t make a fool of yourself either,” says Albert.
“We are incredibly grateful for the donations we have received and the time and effort creating them. We knew he [Albert] was over 100 years old, but had no idea he was declared the oldest person in Australia,” states Danene Jones, who works at the foundation. “It’s amazing and we feel quite privileged to have him dedicating his time and effort to the Penguin Foundation.”
The Penguin Foundation has since reached their goal for penguin jumpers, so they are no longer asking for donations. This hasn’t stopped Albert from knitting though. He still spends his time knitting scarves for premature babies along with other projects that people may request. He said, “I like to make it without mistakes and I don’t excuse myself for doing it. I think there is an excuse for a person who’s gone beyond the normal span of life.”
Albert is truly an amazing man and has shown such dedication when it comes to helping out The Penguin Foundation. Anyone that has received a piece of work knitted by Albert Date is lucky, and should cherish it for as long as they live.