'Kindness is the biggest thing in life' - centenarian

Erene McElhinney from Edendale is celebrating her 100th birthday today. PHOTO: LUISA GIRAO
Erene McElhinney from Edendale is celebrating her 100th birthday today. PHOTO: LUISA GIRAO
Erene McElhinney from Edendale, in Southland, said the secret to longevity is to be surrounded by family and have a positive altitude.

She will celebrate her 100th birthday today with 40 of her friends and family at an afternoon tea party.

Mrs McElhinney said she never thought about age, but was delighted to be able to celebrate the milestone.

"I feel wonderful and very happy.

"I had a really good childhood and grew up in a beautiful and happy house around my five brothers and one sister. That's one of my most vivid memories."

Living in Edendale her whole life, Mrs McElhinney had a variety of jobs, including florist, hairdresser and cake decorator.

The house she grew up in was still there.

She had seen a lot of changes over the years, she said.

"The kids are different. I grew up feeding the pigs, milking the cows ... I think children don't do these things much anymore."

Another main difference was the mother role in families.

She did not have children herself, but said she was lucky when she was young to have her mother at home, taking care of her family.

She believed it was harder now because parents needed to work to support the family.

"The children come back from school to an empty house. My mother was always present and took care of us. My house was always full and this gave me a great feeling."

Mrs McElhinney was delighted to receive an official birthday card from the Queen.

She said the gesture was very kind, and actions like this were among the most important things in life.

"Honesty, hard work and be kind to each other. That is the secret to live a good life. Actually, kindness is the biggest thing in life. We can't ever forget this."

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