Monday, 29 June 2009
.. I'd have looked after myself better. It's an old joke. Henry Allingham now the oldest man alive at 113 (the oldest female is 115) puts his longevity down to cigarettes and whisky and wild wild women but I suspect that's a joke too. Henry is still a humorous chap. Doctors researching 'super-centenarians' (you have to be over 110 to qualify) have concluded that these people have in effect won the jackpot - with a winning combination of genetic and positive environmental factors. The odds are 7 million to 1 and well over 70% of those are women. Hats off to Henry then!
See my earlier post when I had the honour of meeting him at Southampton Solent University on his award of an honorary doctorate in engineering. He was obviously blessed with a good brain (after World War II he became a designer in the motor industry), a sense of fun, compassion and stoicism. He admits he had two breakdowns (during and after the war), caused by overwork and stress and believes that 'to stay within your capacity' is vital. Henry is lucky to be well cared for at the famous St. Dunstan's Home for blind service personnel in Sussex, and that Dennis and Brenda Goodwin, none too young themselves, are his 'minders'. He not only outlived his wife but his children too. The man whose life has spanned three centuries, six monarchs and twenty-one prime ministers has five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, 14 great-great grandchildren and one great-great-great grandchild.
Here he celebrates his 113th birthday with his great-great grandson Erik Carlson.
Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA
Image Top: Daily Telegraph; below: Rear Admiral John Lang