Resthome runaway - elderly woman's big adventure

By Rachel Tiffen

Jeanette Alder. Photo / Supplied
Jeanette Alder. Photo / Supplied

Rugged up and in sturdy shoes, with a rucksack full of clean clothes, knickers, shampoo and cash, Jeanette Mary Alder was going "as far as she could go" when she left her West Auckland resthome on Saturday.

By the time the 80-year-old was found - just after checking out of a Picton backpackers where she used a fake name - she had travelled nearly 700km by bus and ferry from the Parakai Home for the Elderly in Helensville.

Mrs Alder was carrying cash because an eftpos transaction gave her away another time she ran off.

On Monday, police started a search by land and air and appealed for information. A photograph was circulated, and publicised by media.

Yesterday came the good news - she was safe and well in Picton.

Taking the bottom bunk in a six-bed female dormitory, Mrs Alder had been looked after by a couple of German staff members at The Villa Backpackers Lodge.

Owner Rob Burn said she checked in early on Sunday evening.

"She arrived on the 5pm ferry and was picked up by the courtesy bus," he told the Herald.

As the lodge had seen a rise in "mature" travellers in the past decade, staff did not think too much of it, he said.

"But then they got a bit concerned and my manager phoned me and said 'we're a bit worried about this woman'."

On Monday, when Mrs Alder decided she was homesick and wanted to fly back to Auckland, Mr Burn offered to help.

But when the pensioner checked out and went to the booking office for local carrier Sounds Air, he phoned police.

"I said, 'We've got this little old lady, this is the name she's given us and where she tells us she's from ... so if she pops up on the radar you're in the loop."'

Local officers picked her up shortly after.

"She said she was on a journey and was heading as far as she could go," said Senior Sergeant Peter Payne.

Yesterday afternoon Mrs Adler was being cared for at Picton's Seaview resthome, with a hot meal lined up and the best room in the house.

She had told staff it "wasn't time" for her to go into a resthome, said manager Mary Pescini. "So she just thought she'd head away for a while."

Relieved family members are travelling to Picton today.

- NZ Herald

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