British Columbia

These B.C. seniors in their 90s jumped from a plane — and would do it again

Henry Martens, 95, and Etta Hellyer, 90, know a little something about living life to the fullest — the seniors went skydiving this weekend to raise money for a new seniors care facility.

Henry Martens, 95, and Etta Hellyer, 90, say it's never too late to try something new

Etta Hellyer, 90, sits on the ground after performing a tandem skydive with Skydive Vancouver as part of a fundraiser for a new seniors care home and hospital in Abbotsford, B.C. (The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)

Jumping out of a plane this weekend — for the second time — wasn't the craziest thing Henry Martens has done in his 95 years.

"Yeah, it's nothing really," the senior said with a smile.

"I've done worse than that."

Like the time he accidentally crawled into a mother bear's den, or when he skied out of an avalanche, or when he fought off a knife-wielding attacker.

"They say a cat has nine lives," the former photographer said. "I've lived eight of them."

'I just want to see the beautiful world'

Martens took another leap of faith on Saturday when he skydived as part of a fundraiser for Tabor Village, a seniors care facility in Abbotsford. His wife of 69 years lived there, as did his mother before her. 

He was joined by Etta Hellyer, who celebrated her 90th birthday by jumping from 3,000 metres from a separate plane.

Members of four generations from both families joined them in their jump. 

Hellyer got the idea to skydive for her birthday about a year ago. Unlike Martens, she's not much of a risk-taker.

"Risk-taker in business, but not in life," the retired psychiatric nurse said. "Probably the biggest risk I took was having six children."

Hellyer said she wanted to skydive to raise money for the seniors care facility because although she still lives on her own, she figured she might end up there one day.

Henry Martens, 95, said he's going to skydive again when he's 100. (The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)

She said she was looking forward to the jump, during which she would free-fall at nearly 200 km/h for a minute. She broke her leg last year so she was a bit nervous about the landing, but otherwise, Hellyer had no fear.

"As you get older, I don't think you get nervous about things so much," Hellyer said.

"I just want to see the beautiful world. Everybody has said how beautiful it is to jump out of a plane."

Hellyer's daughter, Cathy, said she was proud of her mom for smashing stereotypes about what seniors can and can't do.

"This is just setting new precedents that seniors are not relegated to wheelchairs," she said. "To keep fit, keep mentally active as you're a senior, I think that's the only way to live life."

Martens agrees. Minutes before heading up in the plane, he said having the right attitude and staying active is important to enjoying life.

It's that attitude that already has him thinking about the next time.

"I enjoy the thrill of it," he said.

"I'm going to wait till I'm 100 and then I'll do it again."

With files from Deborah Goble


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