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Eighty-nine-year-old uses lockdown to craft over 250 bespoke door plaques for his Birmingham neighbours

A grandfather has created more than 250 bespoke wooden number plaques for each of the residents living at ExtraCare’s Longbridge Retirement Village in Birmingham. Each plaque features his own hand drawn and painted individual wildlife artwork.

Kenneth Whitlock, known fondly as ‘Ken the Pen’, aged 89, and a resident at The ExtraCare Charitable Trust’s Longbridge Retirement Village, started the project just over a year ago as the country entered the first Covid-19 lockdown. The last twelve months have been difficult for our older people – during lockdown especially – most have had less opportunity for face-to-face socialising with friends and family, many living alone.

The retired factory worker, Ken, lovingly drew and painted images of his favourite animals and birds in a bid to put a smile on the face of his neighbours and occupy his time while in isolation. He finished and placed the final piece just last week on 19 April 2021. Residents will be displaying the artwork in their kitchen windows. All materials were purchased by Ken – he even asked for wood for his last birthday to ensure he could finish the project.

“Drawing has always been a huge part of my life, from childhood, from being at Mosely Art School. I have always drawn gifts for people, like when they were leaving and across most of the caravan parks in the country – that’s where I first started to use wood to create plaques, people would always want me to make one for their caravans. It’s just something I love doing.”

Chris Hill at The ExtraCare Charitable Trust said: “Ken’s uplifting gesture to each of our residents during this difficult time has created unity amongst everyone who lives here – he’s an inspiration to us all. We have been blown away by Ken’s talent and his amazing works of art. It’s been lovely to see how much joy this has brought to Ken this past year and to see the smiles he has put on our residents’ faces. This is a perfect example of our community at Longbridge village and how our residents come together to support each other when times are hard.”

Longbridge Village opened in 2017 and is one of five retirement villages in Birmingham, developed and operated by the ExtraCare Charitable Trust, a registered charity of more than 30 years that exists to create better lives for older people. For more information visit

The ExtraCare Charitable Trust

ExtraCare is a registered charity established in 1988 and based in Coventry. Our vision is better lives for older people and our mission is creating sustainable communities that provide homes older people want, lifestyles they can enjoy and care if it’s needed. To deliver our vision and mission we essentially do three things:

  • We develop new villages
  • We operate villages and schemes
  • We support our villages, schemes and our ‘extra-care’ model through fundraising, advocacy and research

Each village or scheme has 5 to 18 social, health and leisure facilities that are accessible to our residents, volunteers and local people representing all age groups living in surrounding communities. Our Charity Shops help fund care and well-being services for older people living at our each of our locations.