Celebrating centenarians: Sun, ABC1

Don’t forget to turn your tele to ABC1 this Sunday at 6.30pm for an inspiring 30-minute documentary on one of the world’s most exclusive seniors’ clubs.

Above: One of the documentary’s main stars, Ruth Frith (aged 101)

By Yasmin Noone

A new Australian-made documentary about one of the world’s most exclusive seniors’ clubs will celebrate the lives of centenarians and reveal their secrets to longevity, when it airs on ABC1 this Sunday (1 July) at 6.30pm.

The 30-minute documentary, The 100+ Club, is the product of a three-year journey into the lives of the group members who – by club criteria – are all aged over 100 and meet up a couple of times a year to socialise with likeminded peers.

Of note on the club’s books are current and former members like the late Queen Mother, Rupert Murdoch’s mum and an English woman who now tweets with pop star, Peter Andre.

The Brisbane-made documentary follows the story of three older Queenslanders – Ruth Frith, 101, from Algester; Olive Webber, 103, of Cleveland; and Roma’s Dexter Kruger who, during filming, became the cast’s ‘spring chicken’ at 100 years of age.

As the world’s oldest competing athlete, Ruth heads off to Perth to compete at the Australian Masters Athletics Championships, in a bid to break her own world records across five field events (the javelin, shot put, discus, heavy weight, and hammer throw).

Songstress and actress, Olive – who died not long ago, after the film was finished– began singing lessons at 89 but at 103 could hit the high notes. And, despite a bout of bowel cancer, Olive continued to chase her goal of performing under lights one last time.

Meanwhile, the former author and outback cattleman, Dexter Kruger, races against time to complete what is sure to be his final tome, even though he can’t see the end of his pen.

Produced by Brisbane filmmakers, Flickchicks, the film portrays the trio of characters as feisty, ambitious and full of life, even in older age.

According to the film’s director, Mandy Lake, Sunday night’s viewers should be left with little doubt as to how the characters made it to 100 years old.

“They are all quite open-minded people and just go with the flow,” Ms Lake said.

“Obviously they all have their own opinions but are still engaged with what is going on in the world.”

But, Ms Lake said, she did not ask the trio the obvious question – what is your secret to living a long life? – despite the temptation.

“I didn’t go there so much in the film because I thought it was pretty obvious how these they got to be 100. If you watch them in action and listen to their wisdom, you see they’ve got get-up and go, and attitude.

“But my thoughts on the subject, having stalked them for over three years, was that they lived so long because of their attitude. It wasn’t just the feistiness – they were very easy-going people with a great sense of humour.”

Above: Entertainer, Olive Webber

Ms Lake, who became quite close to the three stars of the film, said the production company is now mourning the loss of their “darling Olive” who died last week.

“We are obviously pretty devastated. She was just two months shy of her 105th birthday but she was the only one who had seen the film.

“We showed her the film [early] and she complained!,” Ms Lake said as she laughed.

“She was a real entertainer. She said ‘there’s not enough of me singing in it’. I said we couldn’t afford the copyright [for the songs she was singing].”

And, Ms Lake adds, all three of the characters were living independently at the time of the film’s making.

“Dexter lives by himself he has a good connection with the local church and they take him into town. Ruth lives with her daughter, Helen, and still makes the dinner. And Olive, was living at home until last year.

“Dexter began writing at 89 when his wife died, Ruth took up athletics at 74 to avoid being the ‘bag lady’ at her daughter’s sports events, and Olive took up singing lessons at 89 because she thought she could ‘just do better’.”

Above: The outback man and author, Dexter

Ms Lake said hopes the characters’ ‘never-say-die’ approach to living will stimulate debate about how Australian society treats and in many cases dismisses its older citizens.

“Having come to know and love these extraordinary Australians, it’s hard to believe as Ruth observes in the film that ‘no one wants to talk to an old person’.

“…There is a huge issue of invisibility with older Australians in our society. That was impressed upon me, especially when I went overseas. You watch Japanese families and it’s not just mum, dad and the two kids. They have the grandparents with them.

“Then you come back here. I just feel we are missing something. Older people are very invisible [in Australian culture].

“There’s a powerful bit in the documentary’s trailer which resonates with truth where an older person says, ‘All we want is for older people to have the right to talk’. For me, that’s the film. That’s what it’s all about.
“We hope people see this film and, in some way, are inspired by it…It’s 30 minutes of television that could change the rest of your life.

“I know that sounds like a big call but I think that in some way, it will. Trust me – the doco’s a rollercoaster. You laugh you cry. Then you laugh and you cry.”

To view the film’s trailer, visit FlickChicks on YouTube.

After the film is aired on Sunday, it will be free to watch on iview for 14 days. It will also be available to purchase on DVD from all ABC shops.

To find out more about the film or the production company, visit the Flickchicks website.


Tags: abc, dexter-kruger, documentary, flickchicks, older, peter-andre, queen, queen-mother, queen-mum, rupert-murdoch,

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