What's it like to be 100?

This gallery offers a glimpse into the lives of centenarians. The portraits do not glorify: they tell us about things that give people pleasure and peace, but also about the challenges they face. The centenarians all have something unique to say about themselves, and ultimately about the question many don't want to ask: "what does it feel like to be very old?".

The gallery is based on Chris Steele-Perkins's work.

Alice Herz-Sommer
Alice Herz-Sommer

Alice Herz-Sommer

When we are old we are aware of the beauty of life. Young people take everything for granted. We know that life is beautiful. We know a lot and we are conscious of this and this is a beautiful thing. It all depends on the character you're born with. In my case, I ... I forget!

Our brain is a miracle. We never know what is happening there. Absolute miracle! I had an excellent memory and now, I'm an idiot! What do I do against it? I learn Bach by heart. Bach, yes. Not Mozart, not Beethoven. Bach!

Reginald Gore
Reginald Gore

Reginald Gore

102 coming up. There you are, I managed to stick it out.

I feel pretty well. They look after me here, I've decided to stay here, for a bit anyway. I've been pretty lucky.

What am I? 200, did you say? I've knocked around here quite a lot and I love it here and love around this area.

Tessa Grimes
Tessa Grimes

Tessa Grimes

I got a birthday card from the Queen and one from, what's his name? Iain Duncan Smith. I don't know who he is.

I'm lonely because I can't go out much. It takes all the time cleaning my place, getting my meals. I like reading. I don't do much television, just news.

I had two brothers and one sister. My sister is 96 but she's very poorly. She's in bed all the time and it's hard work for her daughter.

Nora Hardwick
Nora Hardwick

Nora Hardwick

It's in the genes, I suppose. My mother was 94 and my eldest sister was 96. Granny was 97.

I've kept my brain active. I read and do crosswords. And I have a little shot of whisky at bedtime.

If it wasn't for my daughters, I'd have to have somebody in every day.

I've treated myself to a little scooter that I can get out on, in the fresh air. I don't like sitting all day. I take every day as it comes. Each one is a bonus.

Alice Leake
Alice Leake

Alice Leake

I feel very old sometimes and other times I feel I could do anything when my back's alright. My fingers are completely dead. I taught needlework for dress making and now I can't even hold a needle!

I'm very sad really because when I was away four of the people who live here died. It's very difficult to make friends again after you've had such deep friendships.

Helen Turner
Helen Turner

Helen Turner

Every morning I go for a walk unless it's teeming down. When I come back I get my breakfast because I haven't had anything before I go out. Then I do shopping and maybe I'll do about two hours German, and then have a rest before I read the Psalms in the evening.

You know I can't really remember much of it [100th birthday party] because I'd had a lot to drink that night. I'm going to live to 110! I might go to 120.

Nellie Wright
Nellie Wright

Nellie Wright

I don't get by, I exist from one day to the other. I'm hoping for the end to come. I'm tired of it. Why should it be like this? Not a penny in my purse! I've worked 74 years.

Why am I here? I'm waiting for God to straighten this out. I should be home! My husband died while I was in here. I never even got to his funeral. It doesn't matter. I've been a decent girl, never drunk or gone with men. I've just lived and worked like a silly fool.

Ralph and Phyllis Tarrant
Ralph and Phyllis Tarrant

Ralph and Phyllis Tarrant*

Ralph: [Showing a photo album] This is my family coat of arms. Believe it or not, Tarrants were in the Domesday Book ... This is your life! Born on 7 July 1903 ... That's my mother ... My father ... That's where I were born ... That's me, 13 years of age ...

Phyllis: That's one thing, I've still got my senses, where some poor souls, as they get old, they don't. Shall I do some acrobatics now?

* Phyllis was born in 1908. Since this photograph was taken, she has passed away.

Emily Tyrell
Emily Tyrell

Emily Tyrell

My husband and I had a very happy marriage, but unfortunately we had no children. We did nothing to prevent them, they just didn't come along, so that was that. You can't make things like that happen.

I'm quite happy to be here and be looked after. I've got a good outlook. There is a big tree. Very often I sit here and watch the wind and the weather. Sometimes I wonder how much longer I can go on as I am, but there you are. What is to be will be ...

Doris Manning
Doris Manning

Doris Manning

I was an artist but stopped when my husband became ill. I had to watch him and I couldn't paint at the same time. I'd go to find him and he'd just be sitting, gazing. It was the start of his Alzheimer's.

I am very happy with my family life, it's nice to see the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. But I miss going for long walks in the hills. If he saw a mountain, my husband always had to get to the top of it. He pushed me up in front!

Sheila May Hall Horsbrugh
Sheila May Hall Horsbrugh

Sheila May Hall Horsbrugh

I was an actress, for many years. It all developed, you see, television, radio came in and that was nothing like that when I started. Loved every minute of it!

It seems odd to say it, but I'd like people to remember me as somebody who talked sense and yet could laugh at it. It's been a long life, I've enjoyed it, but it's over now.

This old thing should stop beating, it's been doing it for long enough.

Hilda Young
Hilda Young

Hilda Young

Oh yes, I thoroughly enjoyed working in the post office. Both my brothers worked in the post office too.

Well, people run it down sometimes, the post office work ... I bet my dear old mum is wondering where the devil I am! 'Cause if I'm not home by 6:30. I ring around if I get a chance and tell her ... I'm alright but, there we go ... My father still works in the post office.

Ira Parsonage
Ira Parsonage

Ira Parsonage

I used to drill steel. In a factory. I was a driller all my life.

I got married and lost the wife! I lost the wife. The wife died. I wasn't married long before she died. Not very long. I can't really remember, but it wasn't very long. More's the pity.

My eyes are not too good. Now shut up. I don't want to talk again.

Victoria Roberta Southan
Victoria Roberta Southan

Victoria Roberta Southan

I was born on Queen Victoria's birthday in 1900.

I left school when I was 12 and I got to go to work because Churchill had been to Germany and said there was going to be a war. So I was sent to a little factory where I got to do the bullets, and I couldn't reach them, so they had to fetch a block of wood to set me on.

I know I had other jobs. Worked at a nursing home.

Elsbeth Juda
Elsbeth Juda

Elsbeth Juda

They brought the body in and the surgeon, like a sort of toreador, "My gloves, my gown, my everything!" Then he said, "Is the photographer ready?" "Yes sir". And he said, "Oh it's a bloody woman!" And I said, "I've been sent for the job, you've got to try me."

I should be wiser, I should do other things. I gave up working when I was 93. I've got to find a place where I can make a mess. I had a studio and I gave it up because I thought I'm too old. But now I regret it of course.

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