News / Vancouver

Sixty-year-old Vancouver man celebrating his '15th' birthday

Peter Brouwer relishes being a rare leap year baby, but being born on Feb. 29 doesn't come without some unique challenges.

Peter Brouwer was born in 1956, but on Monday, he will technically only be 15 years old. The Vancouverite is a rare leap year baby.

Flickr: Philip Bragg

Peter Brouwer was born in 1956, but on Monday, he will technically only be 15 years old. The Vancouverite is a rare leap year baby.

Peter Brouwer might be turning 60 on Monday, but the Vancouverite says he still feels like a teenager at heart.

That might be because Brouwer is technically only 15 years old.

He had the rare fortune— or misfortune, as some might describe it— of being born on Feb. 29, 1956. Although that means he only gets to celebrate his genuine birthday once every four years, Brouwer said he still relishes the rarity of being a leap year baby.

Peter Brouwer of Vancouver was born Feb. 29, 1956, making him a leap year baby. That means he only gets to celebrate his genuine birthday once every four years.

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Peter Brouwer of Vancouver was born Feb. 29, 1956, making him a leap year baby. That means he only gets to celebrate his genuine birthday once every four years.

“I’m old and wise way before my time,” he joked. “It’s way better.”

Still, being a “leaper,” as Brouwer calls those who share his birthday, does come with its own unique set of challenges.

Most of those inconveniences are caused by bureaucratic or technological failures to recognize the unique birthdate.

In 1997, Brouwer co-founded the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies, an organization that aims to celebrate those born on Feb. 29, as well as raise awareness of the hassles associated with the birthdate and to advocate for those affected.

For example, Brouwer said he has had an ongoing struggle with his insurance company, whose computer software doesn’t support the day. He said his insurance file now lists his birthdate as March 1, with a note beside it indicating his true birthday is Feb. 29.

Among the biggest challenges his society’s members face, said Brouwer, is a lack of awareness about leap years. He said a police officer once accused a member of having a falsified driver’s licence because the officer didn’t believe that Feb. 29 existed.

While being a leaper is now recognized as a “novelty that people appreciate,” he said, until recent years, it was viewed as “something that would just create technical problems.”

Historically, he said doctors sometimes recommended parents of babies born on Feb. 29 change their child’s birthdate to Feb. 28 or March 1 for their birth registration to avoid any hassles.

However, Brouwer said he has felt a noticeable change in recent years in favour of those with leap year birthdays.

Facebook recently updated their birthday policy, thanks to lobbying from the society, to accommodate those born on Feb. 29, he said. Before it was changed, the friends of leap year babies would get a reminder on Feb. 28 that their birthday was the next day. But on March 1, the notification would disappear.

While it isn’t always easy, Brouwer said he thinks there’s some benefits to celebrating your real birthday just once every four years.

For example, he said leapers don’t experience the sense of doom and gloom many others feel getting older every year.

“We don’t have this pressing sense that our life is passing by,” he said. “We don’t go through that. We can barely remember what we did on our last birthday.”

Every leap year, Brouwer said he gets to experience another 15 minutes of fame as he does a handful of interviews with reporters around the world about his rare birthday.

This year, to mark his milestone 60th, Brouwer is in San Diego to emcee a rock concert for Rookie Card, a band that only performs every leap day.

And while most people born on leap days still celebrate their birthday every year, either the day before or after Feb. 29, Brouwer insists on going one step further, making his birthday a month-long celebration between leap years.

“I treat myself special all of February,” he said.  

With files from The Canadian Press.