What 90-year-olds want you to know about life

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AS WE take a day off to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday, three Australian nonagenarians share what they’ve


Selma, 90, ran a clothing boutique in South Africa before coming to Australia 28 years ago to be with her family who had migrated here. She’s very excited about modern technology and is having iPad lessons in her retirement home.

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Selma Shapiro knows a thing or two.Source:Supplied

Be positive. “If you wake up one morning and are feeling a little down, always look in the mirror and tell yourself that there are people worse off than you. Turn that coin and put a smile on your face.”

Don’t go to bed brooding. “If you have an argument with your partner, say goodnight with a smile. Otherwise during the night you brood and exaggerate what the argument was about. It’s hard to do — sometimes you want to bang their head against a wooden block — but in all marriages there will be hiccups and you have to work through it. I think that’s something a lot of young people don’t understand.”

Be curious. “If you stop learning, you can stop living. I’m very interested in the new technology that is going on around me but you can’t forget the beauty around you — look around at all the beautiful trees.”

Don’t be demanding. “If you think of yourself as the giver and never the receiver, I think it pays off. Be happy with what you’ve got and don’t regret what you could have had.”

Cherish your friends. “I went back to South Africa five years ago and only had one school friend left from a class of 27. That was very hard [to take] but we were two little old ladies who never stopped talking of our lives and the changes we’ve seen.”


After a long life as a farmer, Peter, 90, is walking all the way around Australia to raise money for International Children’s Care to help children in poverty. He’s clocking about 35km a day as he makes his way back to Melbourne.

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Peter Tripovich is walking around Australia to raise money for an international children's charity.Source:News Corp Australia

Always challenge yourself. “I started this walk when I was 79 in Melbourne and walked 13,000km but my wife became ill when I got to Pemberton WA so I returned home to Victoria to care for her until she passed away. I picked up in Pemberton on Australia Day this year and will arrive back in Melbourne in September or October — it will be about 17,000km in total.”

Count your blessings. “A lot of people think, ‘If only I had a new car or boat’, but that’s not important. Having food and clothing are the necessities of life — be content with that and don’t be grumbly because somebody has something better than you.”

Life is more complicated now. “I think young people today face more challenges than I did in my day because life was more simple. With things like Facebook, you hear of people slating their friends, and some people have even committed suicide over it — I don’t think it’s good.”

Watch your TV use. “TV is good if you control it. I like watching documentaries or some sport, but a lot of what you see on television is murders and turmoil — I don’t think they are good things to promote.”

Have healthy habits. “I was in the Air Force during the Second World War and of course you drink and smoke a bit but I’ve been a teetotaller more or less since. I was told that vegetarians live 10 years longer than meat eaters so I’m now 95 per cent vegetarian — you can get your protein from lots of wholesome sources. I was active all my life as a farmer so didn’t even need to train for my walk.”


After Jim taught Pat, now 92, to waltze down a hallway when she was 14 years old, it was only natural that she would marry him when he returned from World War II four years later. They had three children and a happy marriage until he passed away in 2000.

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Pat with her great granddaughter.Source:Supplied

Family comes first. “Jim lost an eye and a finger and had a lot of tummy troubles after the war so I always worked very hard. After my three children were at school I worked for an agency doing office work. In those days you told them ‘I will only work 10—3 four days a week and if my children aren’t well then I won’t be coming into work’. They’d say ‘That’s fine’. I think it’s sad that mums today have to go to work from the day their children are born just to get a roof over their head.”

You can get by with less. “In my generation, nine out of 10 were battling. You walked everywhere and life was pretty free and easy.”

Let children be playful. “If my baby got fed up, I would give him a pot lid and a wooden spoon to play with and he’d be happy. Now they’re often stuck sitting, looking at a computer all day.”

Value your friends. “When you made friends, you made friends for life. I’ve lost a couple of good friends in the last couple of years who I’d known for 69 years. The key to long-lasting friendship is being a good listener and having a similar sense of humour.”

Look up from your phone. “People need to talk to each other! If you heard your neighbour start their lawnmower, you’d go out and have a chat over the fence, and you’d ask them for a cup of sugar if you needed one. I can’t do my own shopping now but when I did I wouldn’t use self-service check-outs.”

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