Gath­er­ing 100 years of Kiwi wis­dom


‘‘Some of them just have re­ally good genes, while oth­ers, it seems like luck. ’’

One hun­dred years brings with it a lot of wis­dom, as Renee Hol­lis has found out over the past few months.

The Nel­son-based au­thor has been trav­el­ling the length and breadth of the country in­ter­view­ing cen­te­nar­i­ans for a book she hopes to pub­lish at the end of the year.

Since the be­gin­ning of the year, Hol­lis has notched up more than 50 in­ter­views, an in­ten­sive project she felt com­pelled to un­der­take.

‘‘I was think­ing about peo­ple in rest homes sit­ting there be­com­ing sort of in­vis­i­ble to their com­mu­ni­ties and they had so much wis­dom and sto­ries to share so I thought why not talk to them,’’ she said.

‘‘I just want peo­ple to feel val­ued and have their sto­ries heard. With a lot of peo­ple, there can be de­men­tia and mem­o­ries can so eas­ily get lost.’’

So far, she has ticked off most of the South Is­land as well as Welling­ton, Wairarapa and parts of Auck­land.

Among those in­ter­viewed has been New Zealand’s old­est liv­ing first-class crick­eter Tom Pritchard, 100, as well as Made­line An­der­son, of Up­per Hutt, who will be 110 early next month.

Hol­lis ad­mit­ted it had been ‘‘a bit of a mis­sion’’ track­ing down in­ter­view sub­jects when she be­gan the project in De­cem­ber, but she now had it down to a fine art.

‘‘I con­tacted all the RSAs in New Zealand and also rest homes, ask­ing for peo­ple over 100 who were lu­cid enough to be in­ter­viewed.’’

There had been some con­cern that peo­ple might not want to open up to a stranger, but Hol­lis had found the op­po­site to be true.

‘‘I think as they get older, they see it as their last chance to say their piece.’’

They were still very much en­gaged in the world, she said.

‘‘They want to talk about Trump, about pol­i­tics in New Zea- land, and the things they worry about.’’

Among those she met were In­dian-born cou­ple Jeram and Ganga Ravji, who have been mar­ried for 82 years and will both turn 102 this year.

‘‘He was a free­dom fighter with Gandhi in In­dia.

‘‘It’s just amaz­ing meet­ing these peo­ple.’’

While a list of set ques­tions helped to guide the con­ver­sa­tions, Hol­lis said most of the time the chat flowed nat­u­rally, although the ques­tion of longevity was al­ways a fix­ture.

‘‘There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or rea­son to get­ting to 100. Some of them just have re­ally good genes, while oth­ers, it seems like luck.’’

Hol­lis, who has self-pub­lished nine books, planned to talk to pub­lish­ers once the in­ter­views were com­plete.

‘‘I’ll hope­fully fin­ish trav­el­ling in July, then sit down to tran­scribe hours and hours of talk­ing, and then or­der it all with the pho­tos I have taken along the way.’’


Au­thor Renee Hol­lis is trav­el­ling around New Zealand in­ter­view­ing dozens of cen­te­nar­i­ans about their lives in the hope of publishing a book of their sto­ries later this year. Au­thor Renee Hol­lis on cen­te­nar­i­ans

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