Just a number | 

Meet Ireland’s superagers who refuse to slow down in twilight of their years

The sprightly pensioners are out swimming, running, rowing, walking, boxing, riding horses and dancing

Tom Reeves (85) has a punchbag in his shed

Pat Naughton (90) is an athlete who stayed fit right through the Covid lockdowns

Anne (Mimi) Carey keeps herself moving at the age of 98

Anne (Mimi) Carey keeps herself moving at the age of 98

Pat Naughton (90) is an athlete who stayed fit right through the Covid lockdowns

Eugene MastersonSunday World

Meet some of Ireland’s growing number of Superagers.

The sprightly pensioners are out swimming, running, rowing, walking, boxing, riding horses and dancing.

Most are in their mid-70s to late 80s, but there’s a sprinkling of ninetysomethings and one avid dancer who’s jiving with the best of them at the incredible age of 98.

While many older folk live their twilight years in nursing homes, others are out pushing limits.

Research has found that in 1921 the average person lived to the age of 58, by 1951 it was 66, then in 1971 it was 72 and today it’s about 83.

Pat Naughton (90) is an athlete who stayed fit right through the Covid lockdowns

The RTÉ documentary Superagers examines the positive aspects of ageing and how some people embrace life at every stage.

Among those featured are Anne (Mimi) Carey (98), from Ashbourne, Co Meath, who is always first on to the dance floor, loves dancing to Barry White and is well known locally for her joie de vivre and wicked sense of humour.

On the Dingle Peninsula there’s Eddie Hutch (80), a boat builder by night and a currach rower by day. “Sure you are always learning,” is the motto he lives by.

Patrick Naughton (90), is a master athlete who wouldn’t let a child beat him. Despite the Covid restrictions in recent years, Pat maintained his form and fitness during lockdown by running up and down the corridors of his bungalow in Nenagh, Co Tipperary.

Then there’s Fr Liam Kelleher aka Galloping Jesus (78), in Cobh, Co Cork. He’s a retired priest who has attended numerous Olympics as an official and as a supporter, and still likes to jog.

Anne (Mimi) Carey keeps herself moving at the age of 98

Dubliner Brian Beggan (76), is a dapper gentleman with a passion for riding fast horses.

Fellow Dub Mick Dowling (76) is a renowned two-time Olympic boxer who continues to inspire and mentor kids of all ages.

Martina Reid (87), from Ballybunion, Co Kerry, is a retired teacher, avid pool swimmer and a member of the local writers’ group and amateur dramatic society.

Michael Curry (75), from Ringsend in Dublin, lives and breathes his life on the Liffey and still regularly rows up to Islandbridge and back.

Doris Hone (85), who lives in Carrick-On-Shannon, Co Leitrim, likes to bring a sense of style and sparkle wherever she goes and always dresses for the occasion.

Sean Cooney (82), from Navan Co Meath, is a retired businessman who continues to fly the flag for Irish athletics at home and abroad.

Anne (Mimi) Carey keeps herself moving at the age of 98

Dingle woman Máire Ní Ainín (82) is fully immersed in her rural surroundings and finds great peace and comfort on her daily sea swim.

“One of the things we have to be very wary of as we age is our lack of being physically active,” explains DCU Professor Niall Moyna.

“When we’re young we run up a flight of stairs, it’s so easy, because we have a huge reserve, a really high fitness level.

“But you don’t need a huge fitness level to walk up a flight of stairs. As we get older our fitness level starts to decline and all of a sudden you start to hold on to the banisters. Then you’re stopping halfway up the stairs, and before you know it you can’t walk up a flight of stairs.

“The reason for that is we have lost muscle mass and we have lost our cardiovascular fitness. Now a large part of that up until the age of 70 or 80 is probably due to our lifestyle and not ageing.

“Ageing only plays a very small part, but in a contemporary world we live in we become so inactive, even at an earlier age, but particularly as we age. So the important thing is we continue to be physically active.”

Pat Naughton (90) is an athlete who stayed fit right through the Covid lockdowns

Tom Reeves, aka Shaun Connors, (85), from Crumlin in Dublin and now living in Kingswood, was once a successful international comedian. This teetotaller keeps fit by running and boxing with a punch bag in his shed.

The great-grandfather tells the Sunday World he was a footballer for much of his youth, and keeps mentally healthy — as well as earning a few euro — by driving a taxi.

“I still like to keep fit,” the father-of-seven says.

“I did three marathons in my forties, and try to do a bit of running still, but I can’t run as much as I used to as I had a knee operation.

“I get the odd slight problem with balance, but I keep going.”

When we spoke this week he was about to attend the funeral of his friend Theo Dunne (86), an uncle of former Ireland player Richard Dunne, who he first met at the age of 12.

“I’ve buried a lot of my friends,” he reflects.

“I played football with Theo, went to matches together, had a few pints together. It’s sad to be going into a church for someone there all your life.

“Death comes to us all. It is what it is. So, you have to make the most of life.”

Superagers is on RTÉ 1 tomorrow at 9.35pm.

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