Amazing battles of Leeds 100-year-old

They are among a remarkable new breed – Leeds centenarians who are living longer and stronger than ever before.

Ellen McDonald and Sarah Richardson, who live alone and still do their own housework and shopping, are both celebrating their 100th birthdays.

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The feisty pensioners were born in 1911, the year when King George V, the Queen's grandfather, was crowned and when the first motor car was made on British soil.

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Despite being given the last rites by her local priest in 1963, Mrs McDonald, from Beeston, is still going strong almost 50 years on, having beaten cancer FIVE times.

And Mrs Richardson, of Bramley, has her own home and still loves to play bingo, makes her own dinner and does her own housework. Although she has a home carer, she prefers zipping around her bungalow herself – with the help of her walking frame.

At the last census, there were just 114 people aged 100-plus living in Leeds, but in the next 20 years, that figure could top 10,000.

Research shows that almost a fifth of people in the UK today can expect to live to see their 100th birthday – 17 per cent of the population or 10 million people in the UK.

Mrs McDonald, who celebrated her 100th birthday last week, says "hard work" has kept her going, plus the occasional glass of wine. She also loves TV soaps, turned up loud.

"I scrubbed floors on my hands and knees for a shilling an hour, for 26 years at Leeds Infirmary. Hard work keeps you going," said the great-grandmother of six and grandma of eight, who has outlived two of her five sons.

The former war-time crane driver who worked at Barnbow, in Leeds, still pops to the shops and does her own cleaning.

She lives in sheltered accommodation, having lost husband James 18 years ago. She keeps active and regularly attends Dewsbury Road over 55s Club, where her birthday was celebrated.

"I still do a bit of shopping and like to get out," she said.

"I do the dusting, I look after my own meals and do the washing up at the sink. I have a bit of help with the heavy stuff though.

"It is nice to live this long but, to be honest, the spring in my step went a couple of years ago. I think when I was about 96 I felt

different, but I still feel good for my age."

Mrs McDonald has had cancer five times and was even given the last rites in 1963, after an operation: "I remember the priest standing over me and somebody crying, but the surgeon said 'She's ok, she will pull through'. I told them I am a fighter."

"I don't think there's a secret to a long life, I think it's just fate, but I know more and more people are living to 100. My cousin is 107!"

The figures are based on the Office for National Statistics' Population Projections and Life Expectancy estimates.

Experts have said the rise in those aged over 100 years old – the fastest growing age group – has profound social, economic and financial implications.

Mrs McDonald's son Adrian, 54, said: "My mum is great for her age. She is in good health apart from the cancer scares."

Bev Doughton, from Moorside Tenants and Residents' Association, which runs Mrs Richardson's weekly lunch club, said: "She's a lovely lady.

"She comes to the club every week and is always the last to leave.

"She's so funny and witty. Apparently her cousin is 107, we always joke with her she's got old bones!"

Stephen Blake of the CMA  Photo: Vikki Ellis

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