Elderly man allegedly told cafe is 'not a respite centre' and not to return

By Megan Palin

A cafe owner has allegedly banned an elderly man using a breathing apparatus and walker from his beachfront venue because it's "not a respite centre". Photo / 123rf.com
A cafe owner has allegedly banned an elderly man using a breathing apparatus and walker from his beachfront venue because it's "not a respite centre". Photo / 123rf.com

A cafe owner has allegedly banned an elderly man using a breathing apparatus and walker from his beachfront venue because it's "not a respite centre".

Len Fuller, 84, went to a cafe on the NSW Central Coast for coffee while his daughter Penelope Beveridge and son-in-law walked their dog along the beach on Sunday.

Mr Fuller asked to be dropped there because it was a "sunny day" and he wanted to "absorb the atmosphere" as he often did as part of his regular social outings.

Ms Beveridge said she returned about 1.5 hours later to pick up her father when the cafe owner pulled her aside and told her not to bring him back.

"My husband went and got the car and as my dad and I slowly went to the edge of the carpark, the owner ran out and said 'I want to talk to you'," Ms Beveridge told news.com.au.

"He said 'I'm running a business here, I'm not a respite centre. You need to keep him home. He's making all the staff feel sorry for him'."

"I said 'Excuse me?' And he said: 'Don't bring him back anymore'.

"He started berating us saying he's sick of having my father there constantly, 'He's sitting there with oxygen, you should be ashamed of yourselves'."

Ms Beveridge said her father uses a walking frame for support and an oxygen "concentrator" to assist with his mobility but that he was "completely capable of caring for himself and very independent".

She said prior to the incident he last visited the cafe about a month ago.

On Sunday, Mr Fuller sat on his walker outside the cafe and listened to a busker playing the trumpet before he went for a short walk. He then returned to the cafe and ordered more coffee, according to Ms Beveridge.

Mr Fuller told news.com.au he later overheard the owner telling his daughter not to bring him back as the family prepared to go home.

"I didn't ask anyone to care for me," Mr Fuller told news.com.au.

"(It was a bit windy so) I put my wheelbarrow (walker) on another table and the girl who worked there said 'I'll grab your coffee for you' because it was just in her nature to be helpful ... I didn't ask for anything other than the things I paid for."

Mr Fuller has been a regular at the cafe since his wife died two years ago.

Ms Beveridge said it was one of several "social outlets" for her father.

"He goes to church twice a week and a gym class for pulmonary lung disorders," she said.

"He's very kind and friendly and loves getting out and about and keeping his independence.

"He enjoys being at the cafe, soaking up the atmosphere, the chatter and people having a chat to him, that's a part of his outing.

"It wasn't a case of us dumping him because we wanted to walk our dogs.

"It was a lovely sunny day so Dad asked if he could come along and go to the cafe."

Ms Beveridge posted her version of events on Facebook. The post has since been shared more than 5000 times.

News.com.au contacted the cafe but the owner was unavailable for comment.

Several responses from the cafe were posted on the business's Facebook page earlier today.

"Simply, the old gentleman was never asked to leave. Fact. He had come to the cafe on other occasions and the same thing happened every time," the owner wrote.

"The man and woman sat him down, they ordered him a coffee and then left. Now keep in mind the older man has a walking frame, oxygen bottle and can't see that well.

"After time they come back, collect him and go, don't order anything just go.

"This time, on the past Sunday after over two hours I went up to the woman as she was leaving. "She was the only one there as the man was in the car park. I said: 'Excuse me, may I have a word'. No raised voice, no abuse. 'I am not comfortable with you leaving your father for such a long extended time'.

"I never raised my voice only suggested it that the cafe was not equipped to be a respite centre and it was unfair of them to leave him for such a long time, that's it. She then called me a pig, and I said: 'Don't come back'."

In another post on the cafe's page the owner wrote:

"So what happens if the oxygen bottle runs out? What happens if he needs to go the toilet? It's OK to duck across the road or go for a quick swim but 2 and a half hours???"

"I just wanted to find out what the story was as to why they just leave him. I'm sure he liked it it's a nice energy I never cared and let it go for ages but it was really hot yesterday and I just thought it was wrong."

The owner said his intention was not to disrespect Mr Fuller.

"The only person I and the staff felt sorry for was the elderly gentleman," he wrote.

"On many occasions they went up to him to see if he needed anything. And on many occasions they wanted to ring welfare.

"I'm the sort of guy who sees a dog locked in a car with windows up in hot day and I'd smash the window."

Ms Beveridge said it was not up to business owners to assess her father's health. She said it was discriminatory to treat customers differently based on age or disability.

"If my father had been a young person with computer or reading a book, which I've seen on many occasions, this wouldn't have happened," she told news.com.au.

"It's terrible to expect the aged should be at home and not out and about if they have a walker or concentrator - which he's even allowed to take on a plane because it's not dangerous or hazardous.

"We're trying to encourage our elderly to stay fit and active in the community, not to be victimised or anti-social.

"My dad's worried that he's upset other people. He couldn't understand why the owner felt he needed to care for him.

"The only thing he expected from them was the coffee that he paid for."

- news.com.au

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