Gary Rycroft column

Gary Rycroft.
Gary Rycroft.

The baton of the UK’s oldest person was passed last week from Edith Lang who died aged 114 to Gladys Hooper who turned 112 a few days after taking on the mantle.

Edith and Gladys belong to an exclusive club of so called supercentenarians, namely people who reach the age of 110.

Living to 100 is fairly common nowadays and indeed there are so many reaching that milestone that the Queen has recently had to expand her team of staff sending out cards.

Edith was survived by daughter aged 89 and Gladys lives with her son aged 84, but it always strikes me that living to such a great age must be lonely. All your contemporaries would be long gone and for a super-centenarian the world must seem like such a strange place, so different from the one they grew up in.

But is that right? Or is it the mistaken arrogance of my relative youth making such assumptions?

Edith was our last surviving Victorian, born in 1900 a year or so before the death of the monarch who is still our longest reigning. Our present Queen is due to beat the record set by her great, great grandmother on 9th September this year.

The Victorian Age seems very distant to us now, but is the world so different? Edith was born not long after a much respected Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. She was born into a country where there was a massive divide between rich and poor. Back in 1900 tensions were mounting in Europe as Germany flexed economic muscle and the super-rich in Russia were raising eyebrows with their extravagance and penchant for bling such as decorated eggs.

Well it’s easy to find similarities between now and any point in history. As we know from Shakespeare and Dickens human nature remains a constant and so whilst the material world changes some aspects of our lives and the way we interact with each other remain as it ever was. And maybe that is the one disappointment extreme old age?

That you have witnessed it all before and as such can see the mistakes that mankind continue to make in the pursuit of what is called “progress”.