For Glad Dunckley, one of the simplest pleasures in life is kicking back with an ice-cold VB.
Nothing too unusual there, except to note that the Ringwood resident in fact turns 104 years old on Monday. With her pint-sized (no pun intended) frame and perfectly set hair, she's probably not your typical fan of the amber brew.
But who's to argue with a centenarian? Admittedly, to her disgust, she has recently had to wean herself off the heavy stuff, which doesn't agree too well with her 36-kilogram frame.
"It's what I like. [Light beers] are alright, but in the time I've got left I'd rather have VB," she says with a sly look at at her daughter Vicki. .
That 'time' could still be a while yet, if population trends are anything to go by. Glad is one of the growing ranks of people aged 100 or more across the nation. The Australian Bureau of Statistics says the nation has more than 4250 centenarians and super-centenarians (110 or older).
The reasons behind the trend are many and varied — health, environment and lifestyle all play a part, according to the experts — but judging by Glad, attitude also has a role.
On the shelves above her well-worn armchair sits a three-dimensional model caricature of a grandmother defying her age and riding a Harley Davidson, with the slogan: "World's coolest grandma".
And in between pictures of her six great grandchildren, sits another cartoon-like grandma decked out in gangster-style jewellery, exclaiming "Bling it on".
"My grandson got me that one and I like it," Glad says matter-of-factly.
The shelves speak volumes for her fun-loving nature and a wicked sense of humour to boot.
"Yes, I have friends here," she says, referring to the Blue Willows Aged Care centre in Ringwood, where she now lives. "A lot of them are dying."
As she laughs cheekily, Vicki tries hard not to follow her mother's lead, and scolds that she shouldn't say things like that.
"But it's true!" comes the reply. "I'm not a sourpuss. I like a bit of fun."
Behind the cheerful exterior is a strong soul hardened by her days during the war and the Great Depression.
The best times of her life, she reckons, were from the ages 15 to 20 when she'd dance most nights of the week with friends at the now-defunct Green Mill Dance Theatre in St Kilda.
"My poor old legs won't let me do it now," she says.
The dancing days may have gone, but there are walks and frequent sorties to shopping centres with her daughter.
Her husband Bill died in 2002. She speaks glowingly of the man with whom she shared more than 70 years of marriage.
She spent most of her life as a homemaker, turning a lifelong ardour for sewing into a dress-making business in the 1930s. Often she laboured on until 3am.
Such a hard-working lifestyle is a common trait that John McCormack, a senior lecturer at La Trobe University and an expert on centenarians, found among the 130 centenarians and super-centenarians he interviewed.
"Most of them are from a different era, so all the jobs they had then were physically hard. We didn't have as much food as we have now, and when I do a body mass index in my studies, I haven't found any centenarian in Australia who was overweight," he writes in an article titled Want to live to 100?
If you ask Beryl Sheedy, it's all down to good genes, eating well, a glass of chardonnay every evening — and chocolate.
Born of good Irish stock in Warrnambool on January 14, 1913, Beryl O'Mullane was about 18 months old when the family moved to a shop at 198 Glenferrie Road, Malvern, where her mother opened a dressmaking business.
It's still there, in its original condition, with a curved facade and a concrete kangaroo on top. These days it sells hot fish and chips, not hot fashion.
The Balnarring resident says her mother taught her the importance of keeping up appearances. "My mother was a high-class dressmaker who designed and made for the society people of Melbourne. We went to Government House twice when the Queen was there. Mum loved to see the women wearing her frocks."
She recalls trips back to Warrnambool, sitting next to her dad in the family's Maxwell and helping to steer the long course.
She met her husband Jim at a carnival in Sandringham, where her mother had bought a holiday house. Older by nine years, Jim swept 18-year-old Beryl off her feet.
"He bought me Ashes of Roses perfume, and I'd only known him a fortnight. Every Saturday night when we were courting we would go to the theatre and I always came home with a box of Newman's chocolates."
Although she had worked for her mother, it was the job of wife and mother that she valued most. Jim never drove, but Beryl loved being the family driver.
Macular degeneration has curtailed her driving, but it hasn't stopped her from getting out and about.
Her son Bernie says his siblings and Beryl's 14 grandchildren and 29 great-grandchildren have to make an appointment to see their elusive matriarch: she's always so busy as a member of the CWA, senior citizens club, Legacy and the church, and the unofficial widows' club, a group of friends who meet monthly for lunch and a flutter on the pokies.
She lives independently and loves tending her thriving garden.
Although the gender gap is closing, women still predominate among centenarians. Dr McCormack says that of the people he interviewed, 80 per cent were women.
"Women tend to look after themselves better than men, healthwise," he says.
Alan Storen would tend to disagree with that. The Mornington Peninsula resident ticks off the reasons for his long life. The first of the Storens to reach a century in more than 200 years, he never smoked, never drank alcohol and always lived a healthy, clean life.
He jokes the only reason he is still alive is simply because "they" just can't get rid of him - "they" being his nine children, 32 grandchildren and 34 great-grandchildren.
"There's nothing good about living to 100. My legs have given away, and I don't go out the door much any more. You just have to make the best of it," he said.
Still, he can reflect on the good. Alan married his wife Cicely in 1943 and in the 1950s, the couple bought a block in Dromana where summer holidays were spent camping in tents, caravans or the back of the utility.
They built a house and moved down permanently in the '70s. Alan's still there with son John.
"It's a good world, I've got no complaints."
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