Nina's secret to turning 108

Nina Brown enjoyed cake and tea with diversional therapist Lisa McLean and her friends at her...
Nina Brown enjoyed cake and tea with diversional therapist Lisa McLean and her friends at her 108th birthday party. PHOTO: GEOFF SLOAN
Nina Brown has never smoked or drunk and loves her greens.

And yesterday, she celebrated her 108th birthday.

Nina is believed to be the oldest person in New Zealand, and she had a beaming smile as she cut her birthday cake at Windsor Care Retirement Village in Christchurch.

Nina has been a passionate "greenie" all her life, according to her nephew Murray Brown.

"Nina was way green before green was cool. When she washed her dishes, she would use a tub of water and sunlight soap. Once the dishes were clean, she would use the soapy water to keep the aphids off her roses," he said.

Nina has never had any health issues, other than a couple of sprained ankles from Scottish Country dancing which she did until she was 90, and a double hip replacement four years ago.

She would tell the staff at the retirement village: "I'm going to be the oldest New Zealander one day."

Nina studied to be a teacher when she was 16 and received a Master of Arts in English from Canterbury University.

Nina worked as a teacher in England in the 1930s, until she was sent home on a boat when the war broke out.

"Her passions were teaching and travelling," Mr Brown said.

When she arrived back in New Zealand, she taught students throughout the war, and although her speciality was English the shortage of teachers saw her teaching a range of different subjects, including woodwork.

Nina never drunk alcohol, but Mr Brown said she always raved about his custard which had a healthy dash of brandy in it.

Nina never married or had children, but would always ask about her family.

Mr Brown pleaded with his aunt to move into the more closely monitored care unit at the retirement home she lives at in Shirley, but he said she was always to "pig-headed" to make the shift.

"That's for the old people," she would say.

At her party yesterday, Nina enjoyed a cup of tea and birthday cake with some friends and received a hand-written card from Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, and cards from Lianne Dalziel, the Queen and government house.

New Zealand's oldest man, Ron Hermanns will celebrate his 108th birthday next week.


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