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Yoga-loving centenarian says '105 isn't old - it's just a number'

Article By: Angeline Albert, News Editor

These are the words of Eileen Ash, who turned 105 years-old on Sunday 30 October, and is testament to the notion that 'you’re never too old' for anything.

With a back as straight as a snooker cue, Eileen Ash has been a yoga devotee for 30 years and has quite a few moves up her sleeve.

“I can do the moves the others can do”, she says with a laugh about fellow yoga classmates. But her motives for starting yoga began with her love of another activity.

“I used to play golf” she explains and at the age of 75 she decided to ask a local yoga teacher in her hometown of Norwich to show her some new positions to improve her game on the golf course.

Her yoga teacher Sheila says: “A lot of people in my group are 80 and some have had hip operations.”

Aged 70 herself, the yoga instructor confides: “A lot of elderly people have bad knees, me included. I was 60 when my hip wore out."

Considering Eileen to be the benefactor of excellent genes, she adds: “Eileen hasn’t had an operation in her life.”

On this subject, her pupil says: “I don’t like hospitals. If you go into hospital you come out worse than when you go in”.

'What is old?’

Her instructor believes yoga sessions tailored to older people can have many benefits. “With positions like The Cat, instead of kneeling people can do it standing. It’s important for people to always stop before they feel any pain.”

A few days before her birthday, Eileen was asked by a BBC News reporter whether she got aches and pains and told him: “Not yet, when I’m older I will apparently, but what is old?”

Eileen Ash is a centenarian who drives a bright yellow Mini Cooper around the streets of Norwich, which she'll operate “as long as I feel safe on the roads.”

When a person turns 70, the DVLA requires them to renew their licence every three years. The older person must declare whether they are still fit and able to drive safely and it is the responsibility of the individual to judge this. They must tell the DVLA if they have a medical condition or disability.

Eileen thinks this is a good idea.

105 ‘Not out’

The pensioner is no stranger to pushing the boundaries of what can be done and is thought to be the oldest Test cricketer alive, having played seven Test matches before and after the Second World War for England. In 2011, she became the first female Test cricketer to live to 100 years old.

“I started playing cricket at five years old when I was given a bat and stumps”, she recalls.

The specialist bowler went on to make her debut against Australia in June 1937, playing her last game against New Zealand in Auckland in March 1949.

Speaking to Claire Taylor, a former England cricketer and a fellow MCC Honorary Life Member in 2012, she said: “When we went to Australia it took a month. Which was delightful because we were a team by the time we got there. We knew everybody.

“It’s very difficult today. I’d like to be out there helping England because they need some help.”

“I‘ve played a lot of team sports”, says the woman who has this advice for people: “You’ve got to learn to be a good loser. Be gracious. If you fall down then pick yourself up and carry on.”

Cricket, hockey, squash golf, boules are just some of the sports played during her long life and in her 106th year she is now thinking of taking up snooker.

A healthy lifestyle and a lot of luck

Ms Ash also likes keeping her mind active by playing bridge. But this is not the only mind game she's used to playing.

Born Eileen Whelan, she spent 11 years of her life working for MI6, which she remains secretive about to this day. Of the Second World War she says: “It was such a waste of life and time. “Young lives, airmen, servicemen. I’m glad I don’t have to live through another war.”

Musing over what reasons she has for her own longevity, she states: “I’ve been very lucky. I’ve always eaten healthy, fruit, vegetables, fish and got a lot of fresh air.

A drop of the red stuff

With a preference for a drop of Châteauneuf du Pape, Eileen Ash says a glass of red wine a day has helped the years roll by. She also has a wide social network and says: “Liking people helps. I’ve got a lot of friends”.

When friends and wine are combined, liquid gifts become her birthday present of choice. This year is no different. She reveals: “My friends have filled up my wine cellar”.

Eileen Ash celebrated her birthday with her family of children, grandchildren, good food and wine, against a backdrop of a roaring log fire. She plans to 'keep on celebrating her birthday' for the rest of the week with lunches with friends and other activities pencilled in her diary.

Eileen’s philosophy seems to be not to pay too much attention to counting your years or your days could well be numbered. Instead, she prefers to live by the motto: “Everyone can do something. There’s no such word as can’t. You can always try.”


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