At 92, Farmer is the oldest client at Red Roof Retreat, and one of executive director Steffanie Bjorgan’s favourites.
He is in a group home run by Mainstream, which helps people with a developmental difference by providing a supportive environment, including offering supported living programs.
He has a Mainstream worker who brings him to Red Roof as a day out. In the beginning, says Bjorgan, he went by the name of Ray, but at some point, after visiting Red Roof, he began talking about his early life on a farm, and insisted on being called Farmer. That has become the only name he goes by, she says.
He began coming to Red Roof about 10 years ago, and loved to walk around the property and help with the animals. He’s in a wheelchair now and unable to do that but he still loves to visit.
He loves the horses, and feeding them, but his movements are restricted.
One day not too long ago he and the others in the group home were asked to come up with a bucket list, she says, and at the top of his list was his wish to go for a ride in the Kubota at Red Roof, possibly because it reminded him of riding on a tractor.
Bjorgan says she was surprised to hear that — he had never mentioned it before.
“I heard that, and I said, ‘how are we going to do that,’” she says.
It would have been fairly simple while he was still mobile, but she wasn’t sure how she was going to manage it with him unable to walk.
To get him from the wheelchair to the Kubota, they brought in a manual lift, “and with some creative planning,” and some laughter at the absurdity of how they did it, managed to get him into it, beside Bjorgan, who was in the driver’s seat.
“I took him around the farm, and then we went to the fire department on Concession 6 to see the fire trucks. He loved it,” she says.
Then, recalling that it was still “cookie week” at Tim Hortons, which was selling smile cookies at $1 each to make money for Red Roof, she decided to take Farmer for a ride through the drive-through to buy him a cookie.
“He was so cute. He just giggled and gave a thumb’s up — he was pretty excited.”
Bjorgan says as far as she knows he has no family, and nobody knows much about who he is or about his past.
“I’d love to know more about him,” she says.
April Falardeau, his support staff at the Mainstream group home, doesn’t know a lot about him either.
He has no family, and came to Mainstream after many years of being institutionalized with a developental disabilty, she says.
“He started volunteering at Red Roof years ago when he was able to, and I would go with him. He still loves Red Roof, and Steffanie.”