Joan Willetts is 104 years old, and over the past six weeks has raised £11,000 for charity by walking four times a day up the steep ramp to her care home in Hastings.  Altogether, she’s covered around 17 miles.

Initially, she set out to raise £500 for the British Heart Foundation to say thank you for the surgery that saved her life more than 20 years ago after a second heart attack.

The British Heart Foundation has rewarded Joan with an engraving of its iconic Heart of Steel sculpture. The care home calls her their ‘crown jewel’, and carers came in on their day off to celebrate her birthday on Monday.  She was showered with gifts, including a bouquet of flowers, a giant birthday cake, as well as cards from all over the world.

She was inspired by the story of Capt Sir Tom Moore, who did laps of his garden using his walking frame, to raise money for NHS charities.

Joan said she was lost for words at the kindness of everyone, particularly the strangers who supported and donated her, even from Australia.

She said, ‘you only hear about the bad things in the world. There is so much kindness in the world and I have experienced the best of human nature doing this.”

It’s not the time to stop walking, says Joan “I’m not tired at all from my walk and I don’t intend to stop, to keep fit and independent.”

What an inspiration!  Makes me wonder what the rest of us are doing!?

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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