Like many other older Australians, Victorian retirement village resident Peter Weste is largely confined to his home and misses his once-regular catch-ups with friends.
But, as far as 91-year-old Peter is concerned, there’s far too much “doom and gloom” across the nation about the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Weste took the time to pen a letter last week to The Australian newspaper, which was published and received positive reader feedback.
The letter says:
“While all about us is doom and gloom, and we may be facing the biggest crisis in world history, I would like to reflect on the good things that we still have.
“I am a 91-year-old pensioner living in a retirement village and I would like to list the things we have now that we didn’t have during the last great crisis, the Great Depression.
"We have ABC FM radio, Foxtel, Spotify, email, very clever phones, online banking and Peta Credlin (who always talks sense).
"My old labrador still smiles at me and I may even get around to reading War And Peace, which has been sitting on my bookshelf for years.”
Downsizing.com.au managed to track down Mr Weste, to find out more about his positive attitude.
The nonagenarian lives at the Rosebank Country Club retirement village at Sebastopol, a suburb of Ballarat in regional Victoria.
Life was tough during the Great Depression
Mr Weste’s sunny outlook is based on his experience as a child during the Great Depression.
His family lived on a small property at Renmark in South Australia, earning a basic income growing grapes, pears and prunes (for consumption once dried).
Farm animals and home-grown fruit and vegetables provided family meals. He remembers being visited by swagmen, looking for work and a handout.
“I remember dad hawking a load of dried prunes to Adelaide in the car and finally getting a buyer at a penny a pound. Hardly paid for the petrol,” Mr Weste told Downsizing.com.au.
“Although we were poor, we didn’t know that because everybody was in the same boat.
“What our parents gave us was lots of love and affection. They also encouraged us to read whatever we could lay our hands on.”
Mr Weste forged a career as a winemaker. He served as chief winemaker for Seppelts and Hardys, before being appointed managing director for gin company Gilbeys. He also worked as a wine and spirits consultant and a financial planner.
Mr Weste says that one of the advantages of living in his retirement village is that his sister-in-law, Jan, also lives in the same facility.
“Fortunately, my sister-in-law, who is a widow, is also in a unit in this village, only 50 metres away, so we are able to share meals and company,” he says.
Kel the “wonderful companion”
The “old labrador” referred to in Mr Weste’s letter is Kel, who he also shares with Jan.
“He is a wonderful companion for us and is a great favourite among the residents here as he has the most perfect nature. Never barks,” Mr Weste said.
These days, like so many people his age, Mr Weste only leaves his home so he can buy groceries (he still cooks his own meals).
“The thing I miss most is not being able to go to my Bridge Club. I used to go three times a week and although I miss the mental challenge, I miss the social aspect more,” Mr Weste said.
Mr Weste was happy to receive an on-air call-out from Ms Credlin, after his letter mentioned the former political operative and current TV broadcaster.
Several readers also commented online on his positive attitude.
“Peter Weste, reading War and Peace is an excellent idea. Anna Karenina is even better. Enjoy and stay safe,” wrote one reader.
“Peter Weste....just love your positive attitude and agree with your choices. Keep it up. You will live to 100,” wrote another.
Older Australians optimistic during crisis
Mr Weste’s upbeat attitude is in line with the results of a new research report by social research agency McCrindle.
This report finds that Australians over 75 are most likely to believe that self-isolation will bring beneficial impacts from activities such as reading, creative pursuits and baking.
Around 47 per cent of over-75s surveyed for the report said that coronavirus isolation will result in “more time to do what I enjoy” - higher than any other age group.