The award-winning documentary The 100+ Club is having an encore screening on ABC1 TV on Saturday, 18 May at 12:30pm. This 30-minute film follows three sprightly Aussie centenarians who are living proof that you are never too old to chase a dream. There’s Ruth who at 102 years of age is the planet’s oldest competing athlete, entertainer Olive (104) who is determined to stage one last performance, and Dexter a spring chicken at 101, who hopes to finish his fifth book since he became an author at the tender age of 86.
The world’s only social club for centenarians, the 100+ Club, has some remarkable members on its books. At a time in their lives when most people have long given up on chasing dreams, Ruth, Olive and Dexter are on a mission to complete some unfinished business.
Most centenarians insist they’re not terribly special but as The 100+ Club reveals, there’s nothing at all ordinary about this group of Australians. This half hour documentary not only takes a peek inside this unique club but also follows three of its remarkable members over what could well be one of the last years of their long lives.
Despite the fact that she is practically blind and has no competitors in the world of athletics, Ruth Frith is out to break her own world records in the shot put, discus, javelin, hammer throw and weight events at the Australian Masters Athletics Championships.
After many years of sitting on the sidelines “minding everyone else’s bags”, at the tender age of 74 Ruth decided to lace-up her running shoes to join the Australian Masters Athletics Championships. Today, Ruth is often found pumping iron in her personal gym, or on the sports field with her coach (daughter and dual Olympian, Helen Searle).
Although she is the oldest competing athlete in the world, Ruth will tell you she “doesn’t know what all the fuss is about” and “age is just a couple of numbers on a piece of paper”.
Now in her 104th year, Olive Webber has only one regret in life: that she never gave herself the chance to become a professional actress – she was “busy with children” – but at the age of 56 she joined the Queensland Country Women’s Association and was involved with their shows for more than 40 years as an actress, director, singer and writer.
Olive was 89 when she first started having singing lessons: “I don’t really know how it happened but I just had that feeling I could do better.” She lists her second placing at the Brisbane City Council’s Senior Superstar Competition as a career highlight.
Olive found the whole filming process intriguing and bewildering at times – particularly when the camera guy put the lights way down the garden to shoot an inside scene. “I wondered what the devil you were up to!” she said. But being the seasoned performer that she is, Olive wasn’t too worried by having a film crew stalk her: “Somehow my nature seems to accept things.”
Although Olive would liked to have had the chance of “doing more important performing work”, she says “the impossible dream seems to be going to happen, because I’ve longed to be on the television and I think I’m going to be on television”!
Outback author Dexter Kruger told the documentary film makers that he “lost a year off his life for each day we filmed” but we’re pleased to report that he is “feeling so good now” he “could easily do another 100 years”!
Dexter is up against the ultimate deadline. He’s writing what he believes will be his final novel, if he can only hold out to the last page. Though he can’t see “beyond the tip of his pen”, he insists his books are worthy of the painstaking effort it takes him (and his faithful transcriber, Bob), to put thoughts on paper. He wrote his first book at 86 after the death of his beloved wife, and has penned four novels since.
Born and raised in outback Queensland, he has tended cattle for most of his 100 years. Still at home on a quad-bike, Dexter helps drove cattle on his grandson’s property in Roma. But writing is “the most important thing” in his life.
Ever the salesman, Dexter admits his books are very good – and has used 100+ Club meetings to flog many a copy! “They’re very well worth reading and I think you should buy one!”
Director of The 100+ Club, Mandy Lake, says the idea for the documentary was inspired by an article which appeared in The Courier Mail newspaper on 4 April 2008. “When I spied the inconspicuous story, declaring the upcoming 100+ Club soiree, I had a weak knee moment and instantly knew we were onto something big. Despite this, almost 10 months passed before we called the club’s manager, Ken Mawdsley, with the idea to film the club and its members.”
“We knew we had a cracker of a story, but we didn’t know exactly what shape the narrative would take until after we filmed the club’s three annual events: the High Tea in March, the Lord Mayor’s luncheon in July, and the Premier’s Christmas do.”
“We soon discovered we had no shortage of characters to stalk: as you’d well imagine a club of this type is packed with personalities. In the end, our three key centenarians just ‘came naturally’. They were all comfy with the camera, very witty and importantly, were all still chasing dreams. What’s more, the three were very late starters at their various pursuits.”
“Working with this age group, proved to be somewhat of a challenge: We had to be constantly mindful of not tiring out our talent – multiple takes were simply not an option,” said Mandy Lake. “Shoots had to follow a strict routine of morning tea, lunch, followed by a two hour nana nap and then afternoon tea.”
Not to be missed, The 100+ Club will screen on ABC1 TV on Saturday, 18 May at 12:30pm.