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Newcastle resident flies high

NORMAN Jones may be 86-years-old, but his years of experience have hardly dampened his hunger for adrenaline.

The resident of Catholic Healthcare’s Charles O’Neill Hostel awoke hours before dawn last week, too excited to sleep, before embarking on his hot air balloon ride over the Hunter Valley – an item he has been keen to check off his bucket list from a young age.

“I always wanted to be a fighter pilot,” he says, remembering his childhood. “I never got to do that – but today feels pretty close.”

Norm has been residing at the Mayfield West aged care home for three years, where he spends his days exercising with his peers, indulging his artistic side with sketching and painting - and working closely with Recreational Activities Officer, Wendy Pinch.

Upon hearing Norm’s childhood ambition, Wendy assisted him in the creation of a bucket list – the first item of which he has now ticked off.

Wendy accompanied Norm in the giant basket, surrounded by crowds of spectators excited to see Norm defying the stereotype that age can hold a person back.

Starting in the pictureesque Peterson’s Estate in Polkolbin, the balloon took off just as the sun rose over the Hunter Valley – and landed approximately an hour later in a neighbouring vineyard.

Norm and Wendy’s balloon was joined by approximately 20 others crowding the clear blue sky, gliding over the Hunter in an advance celebration of the region’s Night Glow event, a display of Hot Air Balloon fiestas held each year.

Upon coming down from the sky, Norm couldn’t help but smile.

“We saw absolutely everything,” he said, beaming. “It was like floating on a cloud.”

Despite his great achievement, Norm’s plans for the next grand adventure have already commenced.

“Next, I want to go on a jet boat that takes you on a tour around Sydney Harbour. I think it would be wonderful.”