Laura Belanger celebrated a very special birthday this week — she turned 105 years old.
Belanger, who was born April 11, 1918, has been a resident at the Chartwell Westmount on William Retirement Residence in New Sudbury for the past 22 years.
Numbers from Statistics Canada put out last year show Belanger is one of an estimated 13,485 people in Canada (out of a population of 38,929,902) who are aged 100 or older.
In 2011, about 40 per cent of all centenarians in Canada were exactly 100, while just six per cent were aged 105 or older, meaning Belanger’s 105th birthday is a very rare and special occasion indeed.
Staff and residents at the retirement home put on a birthday bash for Belanger, complete with a cake, balloons and singing “Happy Birthday.”
Belanger, who told us she is originally from Biscotasing, is a mother of two, as well as a grandmother and great-grandmother. Her daughter Jeanette is still living, while her son Gene passed away in 2022 at the age of 80.
The retirement home’s general manager, Jackie Rennie, said it’s phenomenal that they have a resident who has reached this age, although they’ve had several other centenarians over the years.
“She gives everybody hope,” said Rennie. “She really does. Everyone loves her here. All the residents love her here.”
She said the staff consider themselves Belanger’s family, and her fellow residents, some of whom are decades younger, affectionately think of her as a mother. “She is the mother here,” Rennie said. “They just love her and take care of her.”
Rennie, who has worked for the retirement home for 32 years in various capacities, said Belanger was quite active when she first moved in.
“Of course, you know, at 105, you slow down a little bit,” she said, but adds that Belanger, who is in relatively good health, still loves ice cream and playing Yahtzee.
Asked what she thinks of reaching the age of 105, Belanger said “it’s nice,” although she then added “it’s long.” She said she was surprised by the birthday bash, saying “it’s beautiful. The people here are all nice.”
Heidi Ulrichsen is Sudbury.com’s associate content editor. She also covers education and the arts scene.