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Celebrating our centenarians

CELEBRATION: Paulette Simpson, Leon Hamilton, Levi Hamilton and Agnes Smith

STOKWELL GOOD Neighbours, a registered charity that provides a range of activities designed to keep minds and bodies active for the elderly, hosted the birthdays of Agnes Smith and Levi Hamilton – two Caribbean centenarians.

Smith celebrated her 103rd birthday at Oval House Theatre, as friends and family gathered together for food, fun and a game of bingo in honour of another big birthday for the feisty centenarian.

Herbet Smith, Agnes’s grandson, spoke to The Voice about life with his relative. “My aunt Agnes adopted me when I was two years old and she came to England when I was 5-6 years old and I went back to my parents,” he says.

“After awhile I went to the USA and then I moved to London with her.” Herbert tells me that Agnes only has one other sibling: “There’s only two of them left, her and her brother, and he’s 99 and in July he’ll be 100.”

Longevity seems to run in the family – and Agnes utilises her body as much as she can, participating in various clubs including Tah-Chi.

“When I was a little boy I remember she used to have a little grocery place and she would cook. One of my favourite things was when she would have my cooked banana and I used to call her mother C,” says Herbert. “She was really good to me as a boy and she’s always good to everybody.”

Agnes is clearly loved by most, as seen by the hoards of people celebrating, laughing and enjoying themselves at the south London venue.

Speaking to The Voice, Agnes said: “I feel all right, good in the body!” When asked about her key to living a long life, she confidently states, “There is no key! Eat well and be happy.”

JN Bank’s Leon Hamilton also gave a speech on behalf of the birthday girl. “It’s only fitting that as a Jamaica national customer that JN Bank and The Voice are here to wish her a happy birthday as you all have done.”

Also celebrating a birthday was Levi Hamilton, who turned 100 in September.

In celebration of his big day, Levi also had a big party with friends, a DJ and received a very special letter. “I got a letter from the Queen on the September 26!” he says excitedly.

Levi has lived quite an extraordinary life. He was in the military police in Jamaica before coming to the UK in the early 50s, where he later served as a security guard for the Victoria Albert Museum. He looked after Sir Winston Churchill’s body when he lay in state and guarded his body overnight before his funeral.

Levi has also met the Queen during his life, and set up a West Indians elders group, where he played the accordion.

The Stockwell Neighbours group has supported Leon since he lost his wife almost ten years ago and his eyesight around the same time.

Lesley Allen, said: “The club gave Leon a place where he could come and meet up with his friends and socialise. He’s gone on holidays, outings and is known by everyone.”

“Mr. Hamilton has been the oldest member of the Stockwell Good Neighbours club – he’s been coming since it started 44 years ago,” she says.

“He was named an honorary member a couple years ago and the Mayor of Lambeth came and honoured him with that. He’s a sort of a figurehead and has a really marvelous history.”

Stockwell Good Neighbours currently meets weekly and approximately sixty older mainly West Indian elders connect with each other to play dominoes bingo, do tai chi, Aerobics and more.

Members of the club receive advice and signposting to areas of assistance and get help to access community services.

Lambeth Council funded the group but due to cutbacks, funding was withdrawn and the group is now reliant on in-house fundraising.

The group aims to promote health and wellbeing through talks and workshops and fun filled activities and boasts over eight members over 90 years old, showing the beauty of ageing gracefully.

The Voice is celebrating its 35th birthday this year. Share your Voice memories, comments and birthday wishes on social media, using the following hash tag: #Voice35Years

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