OK, so Liverpudlian Nell McEniff doesn’t have the most exciting or unusual longevity secret: “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and I drink plenty of water”.
But that belies a life which has lasted 107 years so far and included some dramatic moments – like giving birth to her daughter Alice while the German air force rained bombs on Liverpool in 1940: “I remember lying on the bed and of course, I was in agony, and I could hear the bombs whistling down and it was dark because they used to turn the lights down.
And though she was just five at the time, she can remember the First World War too, including the sad loss of her cousin, Henry: “I remember they were finishing up the war, but he was killed. I was only little but I remember to this day we got a telegram and it was to say that he’d been killed. Everybody just started crying, it was very sad.”
Alice was one of five children, six grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. And the family has longevity in its blood: Her two sisters, Lily and Janie, lived to 102 and 98 respectively and her three brothers died in their 80s.
Probability rating: 8 out of 10. Drinking plenty of water is one of the most practical pieces of longevity advice you could wish to hear.
As we get older the risk of dehydration increases. It’s thought to be a widespread problem (no one knows just how widespread but 1 in 4 elderly people admitted to hospital from care homes is dehydrated and the percentage living at home may be just as high). Untreated, it can lead to poorer cognition, delirium and an increased risk of falls. Ultimately it can be fatal: one report suggests that 12,000 people die in UK hospitals because of kidney problems caused by dehydration.
Why not just drink more? The problem is that our sense of thirst and our kidney function both decline as we age, so we may not realise we’re dehydrated.
So Nell’s advice to herself is spot on. It doesn’t guarantee you’ll live to 100 but it will make sure you stand a better chance.
More advice about recognising and preventing dehydration here.