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SEEN UP NORTH – In touch with the 100 Club

Tony Best

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Of the things Barbados and Japan have in common, the one that stands out is the large number of centenarians in their populations.Both Barbados and Japan are said to be in the top 20 nations worldwide with the highest rates of 100-year-olds per head.But unlike Japan, Barbados knows where its centenarians live. A visit by Governor General Sir Clifford Husbands in Barbados or the Consul-General in New York, Lennox Price, to congratulate the Bajans is a well established tradition.For apart from hailing the seniors, it enables the country and its officials to keep tabs on them.For example, a few days ago, Price went to a Brooklyn nursing home where Mary Strunkey resides, to let the latest addition to this treasured list of centenarians know that the Government and people of her birthplace were thinking of her.“We believe it’s the right thing to do to tell them they aren’t forgotten but are appreciated,” Price explained after presenting the woman with flowers and a certificate of commendation.“We felt good about it,” said Brenda Headley, the centenarian’s daughter. “We really appreciated the visit.”Strunkey, whose maiden name was Belgrave, was born in Boscobel, St Peter, in August 1910, and came to the United States in 1952 where she met her husband Percy Strunkey, a Guyanese. They raised seven children in Brooklyn.“She worked for sometime as a nurse’s aide at what is now Brookdale Hospital but afterwards she became a stay-at-home mum,” explained her daughter. “She is quiet, low-keyed and loving and that has been the story of my mother throughout her life.”At last count, ten Bajans, all women, were on the New York Consulate-General’s list of centenarians. They are Edith Lovell, Eurita Xavier, Floretta Watkins, Eileen Simpson, Mae Bishop, Millicent Hurley, Strunkey, Edna Boyce Yearwood, Deanis Brathwaite and Clarice Jordan.“We keep in touch with them and congratulate them on every birthday,” said Price. “We know where they are. That’s very important.”This island’s picture of knowledge about their oldest nationals stands in sharp contrast to Japan where a national scandal has cast doubts about the accuracy of the country’s count of centenarians. Japanese take pride in their life expectancy rate of 85 years, which is unmatched by any other country which belongs to the United Nations. The average Japanese woman can expect to live to be 86 years while the life span of men stands at 80 for. On the other hand, Bajan women, according to the UN, have a life expectancy rate of 79 years while it’s 72 for men.