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Here we are, rushing around as if there's no tomorrow.
But what if there is a tomorrow,
and a day after, and a day after that?
We're not talking eternal life here, but there is a growing group
-of people who are getting as close to that as is possible.
There are nearly 12,000 centenarians in Britain.
Each year, more people are reaching 100 and beyond.
This is where people get caught.
I just love driving and I like driving fast.
I must have been swimming since I was 20 years old.
That's 82 years.
They are not simply growing old gracefully,
but with verve and passion.
I think it's beautiful.
So, medical science aside, what exactly is their secret?
In 2011, Fauja Singh became the oldest man in the world
to complete a marathon. He was 100 years old.
Even more astounding, he started running when he was 82.
Fauja was a late starter in other ways too.
He didn't even walk until he was five.
Now he lives in east London,
and running is part of his everyday life.
Fauja represents the ultimate in successful aging.
But thousands of Britons will face extreme old age,
as we're living longer every year. The question is, what can we learn
from those who are already doing it with enviable vigour?
Paignton is home to Nina Jackson, a centenarian mermaid.
I love swimming. Been going to swim ever since I was at school.
I was born in Handsworth, Birmingham, on 13th July, 1908.
I don't feel any different.
Sometimes I feel 50, sometimes younger still.
Nina's been pounding the pavements since she was young.
Every day, she takes the same walk
along the roads of her coastal retreat.
I love walking. The other day I went to see the snowdrops at Dartington
and they were gorgeous. I've got a free bus ticket and I never use it.
Nina's daily constitutional takes her to a place
where centenarians are rarely seen.
-Hi, Nina. You OK?
The local pool.
'I must have been swimming since I was 20 years old.
'That's 82 years. I love it first thing in the morning,
'just a little dip. I do only about 30 lengths and then I go.'
We marvel at Olympic swimmers who break world records, but I wonder,
will they still be hitting the pool at 102?
I doubt it.
I like the company, and I love the exercise. It does me good.
I feel better. I feel as though I've really run a mile.
To me, exhilarated, that's the word.
Eight o'clock, I'm here, and I go out of the pool at nine.
I'm going to go another year. I'll be 103.
Nina and Fauja's generation has witnessed great moments in history
and been part of it themselves. It's left a deep impression.
Are you going to wear your knapsack?
-That would look ridiculous being dressed up.
-No, it is you.
Hetty Bower was born in London's East End.
-Has it got a thing there?
-Yes, it's exactly the same as this.
Margie Dolan is one of Hetty's two daughters.
Don't put it underneath if there's no wind blowing, Mum.
-Looks a little bit like a granny instead of an elegant lady.
I was always taught that you shouldn't mention a lady's age
so I'll leave that up to her.
Our next speaker has taken an anti-war stance since 1914
so you can work it out for yourself. Hetty Bower.
My great-grandchild will be one year old on Tuesday.
I want him to grow up and live
in a world at peace.
She loves the live interaction, so she loves people visiting her.
Oh, my goodness me!
'That stimulates her, and she comes alive again'
when she's with people that she admires.
You've also got a strong mind and a strong heart.
Hetty's been marching for peace and left-wing causes
since she was a teen.
She met her husband Reg
while knocking on doors collecting Labour Party subscriptions.
Reg came to the door,
and there was this very attractive and smiling young man
and my first thought was, "What a pity he isn't Jewish."
I little thought I was going to be...
..a wicked woman!
Hetty and Reg married in 1932.
They campaigned together until his death in 2001.
Hetty's passion for peace had taken root in World War One.
At first, she had joined the crowds who waved the soldiers off to war.
It didn't take long before those same men were walking
with one trouser leg rolled up because there was no leg to go in it.
Arms with a sleeve of their jackets.
That was the beginning of my hatred of war.
Hetty and Nina have energy in excess of their years.
Like Fauja, they put many younger couch potatoes to shame.
Other centenarians choose a slightly less energetic
yet still active approach to life.
It is necessary to continue to do something significant.
If you just sit in a chair at home and read a book
or something like that, it's impossible.
We should all be doing something
for the society in which we live, even at 100.
Harry Wylie was born in Bradford, Yorkshire.
I had two sisters before me who lived to be 100.
It has to do somewhat with genetics,
there's no doubt about that, but I've lived a fairly good life.
I haven't done anything in excess. Everything in moderation.
When he was eight, the family moved to Scotland.
Growing up in Glasgow made its mark on the young man.
There was real poverty about in those days.
Glasgow had very, very bad slums and they built great tenement blocks.
The flats became very damp and mouldy.
Ultimately, they had to be knocked down again.
Harry gave his professional life to education.
He taught in some of the toughest schools in the Gorbals,
and retired a much-respected head master.
There are still things that I thought about and put into operation
in my schools which are going ahead today.
He helped introduce educational TV in the '60s and ran the pilot scheme
for comprehensive schooling in Glasgow.
Harry's still taking the register,
but now as chair of his residents' association.
She is always late.
If she remembers to come!
Even at 101, he doesn't miss a trick.
That's everybody present.
The garage electricity is down to £44.
That's the actual figure for this year. The terrorism insurance is up.
I may say, I've been conducting meetings practically all of my life.
It shows. Harry's a true professional.
Is there any other business? Then I declare the meeting closed.
Amazingly enough, he does suffer from the attributes
that Glaswegians and Yorkshiremen also do, and therefore
keeps our finances as frugally as he possibly can.
Our centenarians' minds may still be as sharp as tacks,
but sometimes it's the body that says, "Enough's enough."
My mind says I can do this - getting up on a ladder for instance -
but my body says I can't. It annoys me so much
that I can't do the things I know I can do but my body won't let me.
Peggy Hovell was born in Ealing, west London.
She was quite the firebrand.
I've always been good at sports. Gym and skiing.
Golf, tennis, badminton, squash.
Everything except football and cricket, I think.
Such pursuits brought her into contact
with many an eligible young man.
She wasn't always equipped to deal with the attention.
We met at the tennis court, and we always had mixed fours.
They came back to my house or somebody else's house,
that was always the regular thing. Then suddenly he was pursuing me.
He was telephoning me, he was meeting me,
he was picking me up in his car and everything.
I found I'd got engaged to two different men
roughly about the same time. I thought, well,
it's awful telling a man you're not marrying him.
So I thought it would be better if I never said anything,
he'd find out. What a dreadful thing, when you come to think of it!
-This is not all going down?
Peggy's enthusiasm for the sportier side of life has stayed with her.
It's others now that frustrate her ambitions.
Like the charity parachute jump she attempted in her 90s.
They said if I did that jump it would probably tear my retina
and give me blindness. Couldn't get a doctor's certificate after that.
We accumulate various illnesses.
We just have to tackle them as we go along.
For Harry, tackling means choosing precisely the right tool for the job.
My balance isn't as good as it used to be.
If I go for a walk, I take a stick.
I have a three-wheeler walker and a four-wheeler walker.
I don't use the electric buggy so much as all that,
but if I'm going for shopping, it carries the shopping.
The members of our 100 Club are formidable.
They rise to any challenge - or find a way round it.
In Lincolnshire, Nora Hardwick has found a way of life
that appears not only to benefit her but also those around her.
She's spent the best part of 100 years
as a key part of her community.
It gives me great pleasure to cut the ribbon on this 2011 gala.
APPLAUSE Hope they're sharp.
I think I've done my share raising money for charities.
I was chairlady of the Darby and Joan.
I was 35 years on the parish council.
In 1927, Nora married Robert Hardwick,
the blacksmith from a neighbouring village.
They set up home in Ancaster,
where Nora took over the post office in 1940.
Went all round the village to try and get someone to take it on,
and nobody wanted it. They were all going to the factory in Grantham
earning big money in the munitions.
I'd got my two children to look after.
Instead of giving up when the war finished, I kept it on
until 19...78, I think it was.
As postmistress, Nora became the beating heart of village life.
-What is it?
Ooh, going to bite me!
She was on the committee in 1953 that raised the money to buy
these playing fields for generations to come.
Ever since I was a boy in the village,
meeting all the other mums and so on, I quickly became aware
that my mum was different, perhaps, than the others.
She seemed to have more energy.
She'd do a day's work in the post office
and then she was off and out in the village.
Nora's still giving.
-Five for a pound!
-Five for a pound? £5 worth.
45, you got one. You get the prizes. Scented moisturiser.
-Put it back.
-Put that back? All right.
-You've got a cup and a tray.
-Put those back.
Put those back in? All right. You got chicken noodle soup,
-cream of tomato soup.
-I'll have the soup.
-You like that, do you?
Nora returns her more luxurious winnings.
-Would you like a whisky?
There's no doubt that Nora has enriched her local community,
but perhaps she gets something vital and life preserving from them too.
100-year-old marathon man Fauja Singh has taken a similar approach,
one of mutual benefit. Today, he's in Frankfurt as part of a relay.
Fauja started running to assuage the grief
of losing his wife and a son.
Now he's running for charity.
While he may be an inspiration to others, he enjoys the acclaim
and gets the motivation to keep going.
Others might be less physically fit
but remain determined to keep active and in the game.
One reason may lie in their mindset - the way they think.
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
Some people, with respect to them, they look old and they act old.
I've tried to shrug that off as well as I could.
Ron Millington was born in Lancashire.
His family bought a farm
keeping poultry and bees,
but had to sell up when it didn't pay its way.
It was a time when jobs were hard to get.
..that things were so bad.
Having seen tough times,
Ron is philosophical about the challenges of being over 100.
If I sit down like I am now, I don't feel anything like 100.
But sitting out the game can be rough when you'd rather be playing.
For me, the perfect outdoor sport.
Today, he's taking a stroll across the green for old time's sake.
He hasn't lost his touch.
Like the good old days, a chip and a putt.
That was nearly a hole-in-one!
Playing with Ron, it's an experience that people should have.
When he gets round the green, he chips and he putts magically,
as you've just seen. If he misses one,
he jumps around and he says, "How did I miss that?
"Did somebody knock it out?" His secret? I wish I could get in there
and find out what it is, because I'd pinch it!
That's the only thing I'd pinch out of this world, is Ron.
Like Ron, Harry too keeps the flicker of his sporting days alive.
When I was at university, I joined the rowing club.
He was a competitive rower and taught the sport for years.
It's remained at the heart of his daily routine,
though now he circumnavigates the world
from the comfort of his bedroom.
I bought a rowing machine, the best one I could buy at the time,
when I retired in 1973.
I shave, I row, I shower.
I row now until I go out of breath. 20 strokes is enough to cause that,
now, but still, I keep my body going.
Quite an energetic exercise.
Peace campaigner Hetty Bower has spent her life marching
and rambling, and her mind has remained as active as her body.
She's found a philosophy for long life that she rather approves of.
It's pinned to her wall at home.
It says, "How to live to be 103."
Well, I'm past that.
Hetty, however, is a mere stripling
compared with the author of this wisdom,
108-year-old concert pianist Alice Herz-Sommer.
"Develop a passion, stay curious. Learn what you can do without.
-"Don't take yourself too seriously."
"Remember, we are just a drop in the ocean."
Alice and her twin sister were born to a Jewish family in Prague.
She was imprisoned by the Nazis in Terezin Concentration Camp
with her husband and her son, Raphael.
Alice is the oldest living survivor of the Holocaust.
It was very hard. Very, very hard.
I was there with my boy
who was five and a half.
At this age, a child is already thinking.
Her husband died at Belsen, but she survived by playing
in concerts held at Terezin.
I played sonatas by Beethoven a lot. More than 20 times.
Raphael survived too.
He was a renowned cellist until his death in 2001.
Alice believes her attitude to life is responsible for her reaching 108.
She holds her twin sister as proof.
Laughing is beautiful, no?
Over the years, Alice and Hetty have had friends in common,
yet they've never met.
-Yes, here she is.
Hetty is finally meeting the author of the philosophy she so admires.
I haven't memorised it because now it's getting difficult for me
to learn and remember.
Between them, they have 214 years on which to dwell and speculate
in more than one language.
-I was born in Prague.
-Oh, yes, I know Prague.
Lovely city. Beautiful city.
You speak German?
-SHE SPEAKS GERMAN
-A little, ja!
If you're a musician, I think that you are automatically an optimist.
In my opinion, musicians are privileged people.
I think so.
Not in the world with supermarkets and not with money.
In a world where there's peace and beauty.
Peace and beauty? Not words to describe
the helter-skelter of the modern world.
During the last 100 years,
this generation has witnessed unprecedented change.
But it's not all been progress.
The depression that I remember
was the one... at round about 1930, '34.
There were hundreds of graduates walking the streets.
Some of the men who came through
training college with me waited three years
before they got a job. The depression then was terrible.
And we're living it again now.
The '20s were really the best
cos you were dancing, you were moving all the time.
Henry Hall, yeah. Quick, quick, slow. Quick, quick, slow.
I loved dancing. The best?
Oh, well, the waltz. It's got to be, hasn't it?
Or the foxtrot.
Elegance, romance, music...
but that was a long time ago.
Some things, however, have definitely changed for the better.
That was a godsend, the washing machine.
When I think - we were a family of ten!
It took you all day, and ironing with the irons in front of the fire.
You had no electric iron.
Life is so much easier.
Peggy always moved with the times. She started driving at 15
and has had a love affair with the motor car ever since.
I just love driving, and I like driving fast.
While her body may be slowing down, her car certainly isn't.
In the war,
I drove a grocer's van
because all the men had been called up,
and I delivered the groceries around.
I have driven a coach... and I feel safer.
And, as I say, I can go fast, but I don't go too fast.
I believe that I'm the one to decide when I give up.
Peggy's insurance company wasn't quite so keen on her need for speed.
So just before her 96th birthday, she took a driving assessment.
At the end, he said he was perfectly satisfied and composed all the time,
and, "Mrs Hovell drives as well as a good driver
"30 or 40 years younger."
Others take a more chilled approach to the fast-changing world.
I go with the flow.
I mean, if things change, you've got to change.
I mean, I would never have thought of wearing trousers.
Everybody wore them, so you follow, really, the change of things.
In my days, no woman would show their cleavage.
Oh, really? So that's changed a lot!
Well, I don't think that's something people ought to mention!
Try telling that to Miss November.
Nora is an Ancaster legend
who came to the community's aid once again in 2008.
All in the name of charity, of course.
They couldn't get enough ladies for the 12 months.
"Will you help us out, Nora?" They says, "Well, we're stripping off."
So I said, "Oh, all right."
It was very tastefully done.
I had a pink tulle scarf to hide the bits and pieces.
But getting back to science and technology,
the world has seen more advances in the last 100 years
than in any other century.
This has posed a challenge to the centenarians.
Well, I think technology is racing too fast.
Despite her protests,
technology hasn't fazed our next centenarian.
Lilian Lowe has seven grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
I contact grandchildren on the iPad,
and they contact me.
My children show me pictures
of what they've done, and I enjoy that. When I was a child,
I had what they called a crystal set.
I don't suppose you even know what that is.
Also known as a cat's whisker receiver.
No battery required.
It was a piece of crystal with a handle
and a wire and you found a spot.
And to think that I have gone from that...
to a smart phone through the ages.
42 unread messages here, look.
"I thought my gran, 72, was amazing to be on Facebook,
"but you're definitely the best Facebooker ever."
I think Facebook and smart phones waste a lot of time,
but I admire them for the people that have invented them.
The generation born at the dawn of the 20th century
appear to retain their sense of wonder.
You really can't say anything's impossible these days,
because almost every week or so there's something new coming out,
or some disease being treated better,
or whatever, and it's an exciting time to be living in now, I think.
We're just lucky to be living in this day and age.
And Fauja Singh keeps running through it all.
Since he reached 100, he's broken eight age-group records...
and set a first-rate example of positive ageing
to his 14 grandchildren.
What's more, the modern world loves him.
These centenarians adapt to whatever life throws at them,
even when the going gets tough.
Inevitably, living so long has meant losing contemporaries
and each and every one of them has lost a spouse.
We were together 72 years. The length of marriage
speaks for itself, doesn't it?
Ooh, we had our ups and downs. I'm sure everybody does,
but we got through them.
We both grew old together, as you might say.
Unfortunately, I had to go into hospital
and, er, he had to go into the nursing home while I was in there
and I'm afraid he died while he was there,
which was a pity, cos I wanted him home again.
It's that empty chair.
We had a lovely life together
and she played golf, too, with me at these clubs, so...
And she lived till she was 86.
If I'd gone with her, that would've been a perfect ending
to a lovely marriage, but you can't have it that way.
Nina had only 32 years with her husband,
but that's because she chose not to marry until she was 59.
I mean, my mum had died, my dad had died. Everybody had died.
I was on my own, except that I've got a brother still.
That's all, and he died soon later...
so I got married. It's no good dwelling on the past.
If you do...then I'd die.
Mortality doesn't sit heavy with this generation.
They've been touched by it, but survived,
and appear pragmatic about dying.
I don't believe in everlasting life
and I hate the thought of living for billions and billions of years.
That thought appals me.
I don't want, particularly want, to live any longer.
but if I have to, well, I'll enjoy it.
Like everybody, I want to go in my sleep.
No, it doesn't frighten me cos I've done it all, you see, haven't I?
If it happened tonight, for instance,
it wouldn't bother me, really.
I mean, I've got to this age.
Science has no doubt increased lifespan, but these long lifers
have something more. Something inside beyond genetics,
and they can teach us all a few key lessons.
Remain involved in what's going on around.
While my legs are still able to carry me,
I will walk for peace and democracy.
Stay in the game wherever you can.
I want two tickets for Midsummer Night's Dream.
Companionship is key.
Harry remarried at 77.
Take time to indulge your passion, whatever it may be...
and do all you can to retain a positive outlook.
Happy days, merry nights and no regrets.
I've had a good life
and I wish every person could say the same.
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