How many times have you been suckered into doing something because you were being too nice and just couldn’t say no? For as many times as this has happened to me, it seems like the feeling afterwards is usually one of accomplishment and helpfulness. 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. Albert is a self-taught knitter and has been knitting for over 80 years. His first project was a jacket that he knitted for his nephew, and his hobby grew from there.
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. The jumpers help because they makes sure the penguins don’t consume toxins stuck on their bodies or preen their oil soaked feathers. When there was an oil spill on Phillip Island in 2001, 438 penguins were affected. However 96% of them were rehabilitated at the clinic thanks to these hand knitted jumpers.
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.