Isobel kept seniors active through their ageing

Ann Ntebe, the retired Athlone district manager for social development, right, is one the biggest cheerleaders of Isobel Bush, who, at the age of 85, decided to retire from her work with seniors.

Isobel Busch is the perfect example of active ageing – she ended her 44-year-long career of running seniors’ clubs at the age of 85.

Ms Busch’s name is synonymous with the Cape Peninsula Organisation for the Aged’s (CPOA) Belgravia Seniors’ Club, where she spent most of her working years, and dedication to her work has turned it into one of the most sought-after clubs. She even had relatives from outside of Athlone beg her to enrol their parents at the Belgravia club.

Ms Busch’s work with seniors all started in 1972, when she was a parishioner of St George’s church in Silvertown.

“That year I was chosen as the first female warden of the church. There I learnt a lot, even though I did not have a lot of schooling. I wanted to be a teacher, but I ended up working in a factory at the age of 14. It was in that year, that all the Anglican churches received letters from Dr Molt Newman, asking what they are doing for seniors. Shortly after, I started a seniors’ club at St George’s with about six to 10 members. I used to collect R2 a month from the members so that I could cart tea and biscuits, using a basket on wheels,” Ms Busch said.

Soon the club gained popularity and they started hosting concerts for fund-raising – not just for their own club, but other churches approached them also to host concerts to help them raise funds.

“While I was running that club, I was also doing voluntary work for the CPOA. The men of the church used to host services at Erica Place old-age home, and the matron asked me to help pack wardrobes and cut the bread. In 1989 the CPOA asked me to work full-time for them,” Ms Busch said.

One of her leading cheerleaders, is the retired Athlone district manager for social development, Ann Ntebe.

“I met Ms Busch in 2002, when she invited me to the Belgravia Seniors’ Club’s Christmas lunch. We have a relationship since then. Her centre was perfectly-run and very organised. At the age of 84, she was still called upon to give training, because she had put good governance in place. She has a good head for management, and the seniors were well taken care of under her leadership.

“The programme Ms Busch ran there was something I really admired – whether they take part in the Golden Games, do line dancing, play bowls, darts, or make beaded jewellery, curtains or cushions, or sling bags. Ms Busch’s club was really an active ageing centre. The programme ran five days a week, and the seniors received tea, a snack and a good lunch for a small contribution. Over the years, they hosted fund-raisers and visited places like Thailand and Mauritius. She also arranged two boat cruises to Namibia and Mossel Bay,” Ms Ntebe said.

Ms Busch remembers how packed the Dulcie September (Athlone) Civic Centre would be when they hosted their snack dances there.

“If the people heard it’s Ms Busch’s dance, then they all came. The money we raised from these events went towards our trips. Over the years, we managed to raise such good money that we went from sleeping on the floors of school halls, to hotel rooms,” Ms Busch said.

She said she enjoyed every minute of working with other seniors, and had no regrets. For now, she enjoys her retirement and spending time with her family in Kensington, where she lives.

Ms Ntebe continued singing Ms Busch’s praises, saying her commitment, passion and love for her work made her stand out.

“Ms Busch is also a networker of note, and that’s because people feel so comfortable around her. I just wanted to give Ms Busch a public acknowledgement for her sterling work over the years. She really broke the stereotype that seniors do menial things and that their brains don’t work,” Ms Ntebe said.