Like many people her age Bernice Jones has no idea what the secret to long life is.
At 91 she's just thankful for having one.
The Glen Eden resident has always eaten well and played sport in her younger years but she's done nothing more than enjoy life.
"I think that maybe my husband Ozzie had something to do with it because when you've got a friend to go through life with you, you keep each other going," she says.
"You just don't think about the age, you just go on doing what you're doing and wake to find another year or so has gone by," she says.
People in the Waitemata district, including West Auckland, the North Shore and Rodney, can expect to live almost 16 years longer than the global average of 67 years.
Latest data shows the Waitemata District Health Board area has the highest life expectancy in New Zealand at 83.7 years.
Mrs Jones' late husband Ozzie died two years ago, aged 93.
"It is incredibly sad when you lose that company but you just have to carry on," she says.
Health board chief executive Dale Bramley says if the area, with a population of 525,000, was a country we would have the highest life expectancy in the world.
"It is a relatively affluent area but we also have fewer risk factors, fewer smokers, people's nutrition is better and housing and education are also up there," he says.
"We have increased our capacity and introduced state-of-the-art facilities."
Over the past 15 years these facility upgrades have coincided with an increase in more than five years in the average life expectancy in the district.
"A lot of people are reaching 84 and in general there are a lot more living longer," Dr Bramley says.
"But we want them to be well for longer."
Early screening for chronic illnesses and providing community-based help reduce the demand on hospital facilities, he says.
"We are seeing the complexity of illness in older people increasing. We are focusing on screening people earlier for chronic diseases and getting them into appropriate programmes to manage them."
Mrs Jones has survived two bowel operations and a brain tumour and still regularly sees her doctor.
Exercise is minimal but a weekly shopping trip and lunch with her daughter is something to look forward to.
Mrs Jones lives independently with her cat Fluffy. She goes to bed about 10pm and she does her best to be up by 8am, unless she's got a good book to lie in with.
Waitemata health board clinical director of geriatric medicine John Scott says growing old isn't all doom and gloom.
"Just because you're getting old shouldn't mean you should stop living your life. An 80-year-old now has the same health as a 60-year-old did 50 years ago.
"There is no need to be afraid of old age, but it is also important not to ignore the problems that come with it when they occur."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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