Ellie Mann celebrated her 100th birthday recently, with four generations of her family, friends, and staff and residents at the nursing home where she lives joining her to celebrate.
HelloCare was fortunate to be able to ask Ms Mann about her long life, and also about how she chose to celebrate such a significant milestone.
“My daughters arranged a celebration here with the girls at Benetas’ Gisborne Oaks,” Ms Mann told us. “I had family come from New South Wales and Victoria, including four of my great grandchildren and my grandchildren.
“My congregation from the local Uniting Church and the congregation from Geelong also joined us for afternoon tea, as did a number of friends from Gisborne Oaks.
“I live a blessed life and they make me incredibly happy.”
Local media also attended the event.
“It was very special to have local news there and so many people. I received a big stack of cards, but you know what, it’s not so much about the cards. It’s that each card represents a friendship, and each one is personal to me,” Ms Mann said.
Riding the wave of migration to Australia
Ms Mann was born in Belfast, and immigrated to Australia as a ‘ten pound Pom’. She came to join friends who were already living here, and to soak up the Australian sunshine. After building her life in regional Victoria with her husband and two children, Ms Mann said the years have flown by.
“I never dreamt I’d live this long. Going through two wars, being down and out, coming here with my husband from Belfast, and here we are. I really don’t feel any different to any other day, it’s just the number that’s changed.
“I’ve been busily occupied each year to year, and a couple of years ago, I thought gee, I’m almost 100 years old! And by Joe it went fast!”
A love of work
Ms Mann had a successful career as a buyer, and still has clear memories of work.
“I worked in the wool business in Geelong as a buyer for the shop. I loved it. I could still feel if the wool had cotton in it or was pure. You just get the feel of it and never forget it. Some of my memories are very vivid and plain as day.”
“Take each day as it comes”
When asked what living through 100 years of history has taught her about life, Ms Mann was philosophical.
“I just take each day as it comes. Whether you’re a prince or a pauper, the day we’re in is all we have, isn’t it?
“It’s nice to look forward to the next, but not to bank on it. If God grants me another day, I am blessed. But really the present is only one we’re ever in.”
Religion the secret to a long life
Religion has given Ms Mann a great deal of comfort over her life, and she says it’s the secret to her longevity.
“My secret to a long life is Christ,” she told HelloCare. “He gives me each day at a time, and I’m blessed each time he gives me another. I think, ‘You’ve given me this day, help me live it to the fullest’.
“I’ve had a happy life and I think it’s because I’ve been at peace with God, knowing that I would never fully be on my own, even though hardship.”
Dedication to helping others
But staff at Gisborne Oaks told HelloCare that Ms Mann has never drunk alcohol or smoked, and she went to the gym twice a week until she was 95 years old.
Her family say she never sits down and is famous among them for saying, “I’ll do what me likes”.
Ms Mann’s daughter, Margaret Lang, says her mother’s unwavering energy to help others is the key that’s kept her going.
Now she’s 100, Ms Mann hasn’t slowed down much.
“I go to aqua aerobics, bingo, and, when it’s not too cold, I go to congregation on a Sunday. I’m very lucky to have my great grandchildren take me out to coffee on the Saturday, and I get to see my daughter every other day,” she said.
“Oh, and the girls here (at Benetas’ Gisborne Oaks) are so good. The people and staff are wonderful. I’m very happy here,” she said.
Came to try, and stayed
Ms Mann first moved to Gisborne Oaks on a temporary basis, but made the decision to stay.
“I came here for two weeks five years ago, and never went home,” she said.
“I had an accident in Geelong and it was good to be closer to my daughter, but then I stayed because I liked it. “
Her daughters packed up her home, but she hasn’t missed anything.
“We might want a lot, be we need surprisingly little. In fact, I’ve got everything I need here. I have been very blessed,” she said.
“The best things in life don’t depend on money, I believe people respond to the way you treat them, so I try to be kind to every person I meet.”
Advice for today’s young
She said life is more complex for young people these days, but she did have some words of advice.
“I couldn’t cope with a lot of what young people have to go through these days. I really lived in a different world to what it is now.
“If there’s one thing younger people don’t want, it’s an older generation telling them how to live.
“Most of the time it’s best if you can lend a listening ear and people will solve their own problems.”
Main image: Ellie Mann reads her card from the Queen. Image supplied.