With an ageing population, finding centenarians in Scotland who clock up a hundred years or so is becoming less rare, but locating a 99-year-old who lives independently is still quite a find.
Jean Butchart is her own boss, has her own home near Banchory, has her own friends and hobbies, and she’s as sharp as a tack. When presented with a birthday cake with ’99’ decorated in icing on the top, she frankly and amusingly described it as “an unnecessary caper”.
When any of us consider living life to such a ripe age, an independent lifestyle such as Jean’s, and the maintenance of a good sense of humour, is probably the scenario we’d ideally envisage.
When asked what her secret was, Jean replied: “Your guess is as good as mine”.
Born in Newcastle, Jean Butchart moved to Scotland at six months when her father secured a job in Glasgow.
Aged eight, the family moved to Edinburgh where she lived until qualifying as a teacher in domestic science and home economics.
Then, during the war she taught in a boarding school in Herefordshire, and remembers battling with rations and trying to source real eggs to demonstrate how to make a souffle, until a role in the famous Aberdeen College of Domestic Science (known as the Do’ School) brought Jean to the Granite City in 1948.
She admits that “my life has been a very ordinary one”, and perhaps a steady, fulfilling life, lacking hyperbole and drama, is the key to longevity.
Jean has always been independent, so she’s always known how to look after herself.
But her caring, family side was clear when she left teaching in 1972 to look after for her elderly mother who lived to 92. Clearly good genes run in the family.
After retirement, Jean faced the practicalities of the forthcoming years and decades: “I realised that it was time, I had no very close relatives that could cope with me if necessary.
“I had friends in sheltered accommodation so I thought where do I go? I’ve friends in the south and in the west of Scotland, I’ve got friends in Edinburgh, I’ve got friends in Fife, I’ve got friends in Angus, I had friends in Aberdeen.” She was overwhelmed with choice.
Many retirees follow their children and grandchildren, often settling nearby and taking up much of the childcare duties that the UK’s workforce so desperately require. Being so independent meant that Jean was as free as a bird, and her choices regarding where to settle down were limitless.
After much consideration and several viewings Jean bought a home in Inchmarlo Village..
The estate has around 200 privately-owned homes and, at its heart, is the elegant Georgian B-listed mansion of Inchmarlo House itself, an onsite residential home that offers a range of facilities that home owners and residents alike can tap into.
Home owners must be over 55 but, apart from that, they are their own agents.
What helps residents like Jean are the services they can utilise, as required, that assist them to live independently for longer.
At one end of the spectrum home owners can engage in Inchmarlo’s social scene or, alternatively, check in for respite care in a location they are already familiar with, they already know the staff and they’re confident that their home is secure during their absence.
Rather than facing a huge upheaval, a few weeks or months of respite is literally just down the road.
Jean arrived in Royal Deeside a retiree, but now has assistance that has adapted over the years.
She said: “Yes, I have a care plan. They provide help four times a day, to get me up in the morning to get washed and have breakfast. They come about 12ish to make my lunch,
clean up afterwards and do odd jobs that need to be done. They come at teatime, then come to put me to bed.”
Jean wantes to live in her own home for all her days, but has few plans for her 100th birthday, adding: “I always said I didn’t want to live to be 100, but my doctor keeps telling me that I’m going to!
“It’s not that I don’t enjoy what I’ve got, I just didn’t want it. But I think I’m very lucky in many ways. I’ve got good friends and I’ve got good health.”