Pair to face 207 candles between them

Birthdays are the one time of year when you get lavished with extra-special attention and treatment befitting a minor celebrity.

So there were concerns about how Birchleigh Residential Care Unit residents Vi Byers and Elma McRobbie would react when they learned they would both be celebrating their birthdays this weekend.

Mrs Byers will turn 103 tomorrow and Mrs McRobbie will turn 104 on Sunday.

When the duo found out yesterday, they were not in the least aggrieved about not getting all of the attention.

In fact, they were delighted they would get to share the milestones, and marvelled at their combined 207 years of life.

Nurse manager LiliAnne Garcia said it was rare to have two residents reach such an age, and the one thing they had in common was they lived life to the full.

Birchleigh Residential Care Unit residents Elma McRobbie (left) and Vi Byers will celebrate their...
Birchleigh Residential Care Unit residents Elma McRobbie (left) and Vi Byers will celebrate their birthdays this weekend, with a combined 207 candles. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
"Vi is a very affectionate person. She likes cuddles and she loves to hold hands.

"She also loves her cups of soup at tea time. She would have at least two or three of them.

"And she loves fish and chips on a Saturday — spot on, she has never missed a Saturday with fish and chips.

"Elma amazes me entirely. The fact that she has had two hip replacements and has managed to bounce back, you can tell she is doing something amazing in there somewhere.

"She still does her Tai Chi. She’s very active, physically and mentally.

"And the fact that at 104, she is still emailing family members, I don’t really know how she’s doing that."

Asked what their secret to longevity was, Mrs Byers said living in the moment and "being interested in everything that’s going on around me".

It was a way of life that made her popular wherever she went.

Mrs McRobbie said the secret was "not to be miserable with food and not to be miserable with heat — and plenty of exercise".

"If you abuse your stomach when you’re young, you’ll pay dearly for it later on.

"I’ve never really thought about my age.

"I’ve never thought, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t be doing that because I’m 103, or whatever’.

"I’ve always thought that I was younger than what I was."

Mrs McRobbie celebrated her 90th birthday with a ride in the Shotover Jet, and her 100th birthday with her first flight in a helicopter.

Mrs Byers said she was looking forward to having a small birthday lunch with her family, but was not keen for cake, which was "a bit rich for me now".

"Just a cup of tea, and maybe some vegetable soup for my evening meal. I’m a soup lover."


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