Diego Johnson, 8, of Fort St. James is not your typical eight year old boy. He plays hockey, loves ski doing, rides his bike everywhere, but for whatever reason, he also likes to hangout at the seniors home with me, Anna Prestmo said, aka grandma Anna who works at Riverside Place in Vanderhoof.
“He straps on the apron and helps set the tables, serves food, and sits for lunch with the seniors. He also helps to get them from their rooms, especially the ones with wheelchairs, he likes to push them in their chairs,” Ms. Prestmo said.
Diego likes to have lunch with the seniors at Riverside Place and even picks a different table to sit at each time in order to chat up all the residents. He also makes home visits, something the seniors can’t get enough of.
One day Diego went to get Mary Brandes for lunch from her room when she used to live at Riverside Place. Ms. Prestmo went to check on him to make sure he went to the right room and overheard Mary ask Diego how her hair looked and if he wouldn’t mind combing it for her.
“And here he was combing her hair. It’s something so nice to see, a young kid do that for an older lady,” Ms. Prestmo said. “I thought hockey players had a rough-and-tough persona but he just has such a sweet side.”
Diego is seemingly just like every other eight-year-old boy except for his fondness of old folks. He remembers things about them and asks them if their feeling better when he knows the time before they were feeling ill. He doesn’t even mind when they reach out to hug him, Ms. Prestmo said.
“I enjoy going to visit the seniors because it’s fun playing with them. I like to talk with them, ask them questions, go to their rooms and just keep them company,” Diego said, who even has nick names for some of the residents. For example, Bob Ray is a.k.a Bob Jr, Bob Stapleton is a.k.a Bob S and Rose is a.k.a Rosy.
“When I was laid up in the wheelchair he wheeled me up and down the hallway. I gave him a couple dollars but he didn’t want to take it,” Bob Ray said. “He’s come visit me at least two or three times since then.”
Diego knows most of the other seniors by name and for his birthday they all signed a card for him, which made him ecstatic, Luisa Johnson said, Diego’s mother.
“Diego really is your typical boy, very happy and active. He loves sports and playing outside. But on the other hand he can be very caring and compassionate and affectionate. It’s sometimes hard to see that side of him because he’s such a go getter and wants to score, but he loves to go down to the seniors home and actually asks to go there. When he talks about it he doesn’t act like he’s going to help or volunteer, he thinks of it as he’s going to visit his friends,” Ms. Johnson said.
Diego’s great grandmother Paula Walsh lives at the home but now Diego’s visits aren’t just for her. His charismatic and caring personality is well-known at the home and has made a lasting impression on many of the seniors.
“It’s different having a young person come help out,” Gordon Barkema said, live-in resident. “He does a great job.”