The ''100 Club'' at Kerikeri Retirement Village used to be a very small, exclusive group.

But not any more.

This burgeoning club now had seven members aged up to 104 years old, one of whom — 103-year-old Nell Graveson — still lives independently in her own unit.

Between them they've clocked up a huge 710 years of life experience.


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The newest member of the club is Gwen Webb, who turned 100 on May 15, the second day of Covid-19 alert level 2.

Despite Covid restrictions which meant a planned family party had to be postponed, Gwen said it was one of her best birthdays yet.

''It was really, really lovely. I'll never forget it,'' she said.

The big day started with a hairdresser's appointment at 8.30am for her first post-lockdown hairdo, followed by a visit from one of her daughters, lots of phone calls, and opening a mountain of cards, including from the Queen, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Northland MP Matt King.

A birthday lunch with the other residents featured good food and champagne, and she caught up with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren around New Zealand and Australia via Zoom calls.

"They would've all been over here if it wasn't for this Covid."

Gwen was born in Birkenhead, Auckland, in 1920. One of her earliest memories is of winning a piano competition at age 12. She still has the medal and she still loves to play.


She's also a fan of crosswords, Scrabble and the village happy hour.

She has lived in Auckland, Australia and more recently with her daughter in Kerikeri, moving into the village care facility just before lockdown.

She wasn't sure what the secret to longevity was but exercise was certainly part of it.

''Everybody asks me that. I reckon it's the way we were brought up, and throughout my life I did lots of sport — tennis, badminton, bowls, a bit of squash, and cricket with the boys.''

Village chief executive Hilary Sumpter said she was thrilled to welcome Gwen to the expanding 100 Club.

"Our role in supporting these amazing people is to enable them to live the life they want and to ensure that they still have purpose. This lot are World War I babies and I believe their stoicism is what sees them still here and happy today."

There was a general trend in aged care towards increased longevity, she said.

"With the advent of so many people living so much longer we start to see new medical conditions appearing, and often several medical conditions at once, so we have to adapt our care to meet the needs of these very special people."