24 Jul 2015

Thoughts of Bill at 103

From New Zealand Society, 2:20 pm on 24 July 2015

“I can’t growl. There’s no reason why I don’t go on for another couple of years!” Bill Tuckey, centenarian-plus-three.

This is an image of Bill Tuckey sitting in the sun on his porch

Bill Tuckey sits in the sun on his porch Photo: RNZ/David Steemson

At 103 years old, Bill Tuckey of Rawene goes for a walk every day to stop “seizing up”, as he puts it. He reckons he’s got little to complain about apart from the odd ache. His wife died twenty years ago and he misses her a lot. He has also outlived two of his six children.

Diminutive, with small twinkling eyes, Bill sits in a patch of winter sun, on his porch in a comfy old chair. He‘s sounding pretty fit after all these years, and says he keeps up with the daily news. But he thinks his body doesn’t behave as well as it used too.

“My brain makes me do silly things. I think, ‘what the hell did you do that for?’”

Bill’s parents ran pubs around the country, so for some years he boarded at Kings College in Auckland, and he’s now that school’s oldest surviving pupil.He came to live in the small Northland seaside town of Rawene when he was sixteen and eventually married a local girl.

This is  an image Rawene waterfront

Rawene waterfront Photo: RNZ/David Steemson

Since 1950 he’s lived in the same little house up on the main road above the town and near the hospital. He and his wife brought up their six kids here and the wife’s old dad lived with them till he died.

Bill Tuckey is determined not to go into care if he can avoid it. He enjoys the lunches that the hospital sends over to him every week day, and says that helps keep him from occupying one of the hospital’s beds. Most of his life he worked in dairy factories, but he says that industry has changed so much. He remarks that Fonterra seems to have got itself into the “poop” recently.

He can’t believe the price of milk these days, and he wonders how families cope today. Bill has lost count of his descendants, but he knows he has one great, great grandchild, with another on the way.

 This is an image of Bill at ninety nine, with his Ford Laser. He sold it when he turned 100.

Bill at ninety nine, with his Ford Laser. He sold it when he turned 100. Photo: Courtesy MTA

Bill drove a car until he was 100 and says he decided to stop before he killed someone. He misses that too.

Bill has been following the debate on euthanasia.“Sometimes I think,’ Oh God, what can you do to get out of this place!’”But he reckons he couldn’t do it himself.

He takes a regular walk in the afternoon stopping for the odd “yak”, and as long as he keeps his health he thinks he’s good for a couple more years yet.

A statistic or two;

  • On Census night in 2013 there were 105 men in New Zealand over the age of 100, and 453 women.
  • The oldest living person is believed to be a 107-year-old woman in Christchurch.
  • By 2050 the population is forecast to reach 5.3 million and the percentage of people 60 years of age and older will rise from just under 20-percent to almost 30-percent.
  • People aged 85 and over are making up a growing proportion of the 65+ group – from 10-percent in 2001 to 12-percent in 2013.
This is an image of the Rawene waterfront and a dog wandering about

Rawene waterfront and dog Photo: RNZ/David Steemson

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