Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Celtic lifestyle is key to longevity

Dividing your life between Scotland and Ireland appears to boost your chances of reaching great old age - Britain and Ireland's oldest people, both of whom died last week, did exactly that.

Dividing your life between Scotland and Ireland appears to boost your chances of reaching great old age - Britain and Ireland's oldest people, both of whom died last week, did exactly that.

Their longevity had echoes of another of the UK's oldest-ever people: a Dungannon woman who moved to Scotland, and was Britain's oldest person for a while in the 1990s.

Last week Ireland's oldest woman, Elizabeth Yensen, died in her Co Down flat aged 110.

She was born in Glasgow in 1895, and moved to Belfast in the 1930s when her late Danish husband, William, was transferred by his employer, Scottish Life Assurance.

Mrs Yensen died days before the UK's oldest woman, Lucy d'Abreu, whose life ended on Wednesday, aged 113.

Mrs d'Abreu, who was born in India in May 1892, lived for 60 years in Waterford, before moving to Stirling.

Her husband, a distinguished surgeon called Dr Abundius Joseph d'Abreu, was a cousin by marriage to the Queen Mother.

Similarly, in the 1990s, Annie Scott - a Co Tyrone-born woman - moved to Scotland and became the UK's oldest person.

She was born on March 5, 1883, and was recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as Britain's oldest in September 1994. Ms Scott died in April 1996, aged 113 and one month.

Mrs Yensen, who reached 110 and five months, died several years younger than Mrs d'Abreu and Ms Scott.

Nevertheless, she was one of the half dozen oldest people recorded in the United Kingdom, and she was several years older than anyone else in Northern Ireland.

She was also older than anyone in the Republic, becoming Ireland's oldest person in December 2004, when Maggie Dolan from Galway died aged 111.

People who reach 110 are known as super centenarians; - it is highly unusual to reach such a milestone. In Western societies, about one person in 10 million is a super centenarian.

The next oldest person in Northern Ireland is believed to be Nellie Thompson from Belfast, who celebrated her 107th birthday in September.

Mrs Yensen remained cheerful when she was admitted to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald last Saturday, but died suddenly the next day.

The Belfast Telegraph twice interviewed the former tea company secretary, who was unsentimental about old age and admitted that it could be lonely.

She often laughed at modern life, observing that "there are flying machines everywhere" - the phrase is a reminder that she was born eight years before the first flight.

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