Norma Griffiths, of Bupa Aged Care Armidale, turned 96 last week

Norma Griffiths had a special birthday last week. On April 9, she turned 96.

“And I can’t believe it still, I’m that old!” she laughs. “I've gone on and on and on!  I've had different things wrong with me, and somehow I come up fighting. I don't know whether it's spirit or what it is that keeps me going…

“And I like people.  Maybe I don't want to leave people, because I've asked the good gentleman above to take me time and time again, and my daughter said: I don't think he wants you!"

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It’s been a busy week for Norma, a resident of Bupa Aged Care Armidale. She and “twin” Beryl Dahlenburg celebrated their birthdays by going to the Guyra Seniors’ Aussie Extravaganza. On Wednesday, she went to a magic show at the Bowling Club, and won first prize in a raffle: $100 worth of vouchers. And at both events she saw many of her friends.

"I didn't realise how many people I know up here!  It was really, really lovely – but I had to just look and smile sometimes because I couldn't remember the name!"

Norma grew up in the Sydney suburb of Mascot.

“I was a shoe machinist, much to the disgust of my cousins, because I didn't do any clerical work! I had a friend next door to me, whose dad worked in the shoe trade. She got a job there, and then she came home one day, and said there was a vacancy, so I got into the shoe trade, and loved every bit of it!”

She moved to Armidale 16 years ago, at the young age of 80. Her husband Robert, who worked for Sunbeam, had died, and her daughter and son-in-law had come to put their son in school at TAS.

“I thought: Well, I've got nothing to keep me in Sydney, that's all the family I had, and I'd lost my husband and just all about the in-laws that I had, so, well, why not go to Armidale?”

Since a stroke two years ago, Norma has been in Bupa.

“The stroke stopped me from getting out, because I love being out, mixing! Just an only child that likes people,” she said.

“I would much rather be back home, and going out 5 days a week, but I know I can't any more. The best thing I can do is mix in and do whatever they have here, with quizzes, and I try. I know I'm trying, at times!"

She's made plenty of friends at Bupa with both residents and staff, who are very fond of the high-spirited old lady.

Nor has the stroke kept her spirits down. No longer able to knit, she took up crocheting – with great success.

“I put an entrant into a show for the first time at 95, and got a first prize! And this year I repeated it, and I only got second prize.”

Norma obviously isn’t one to let either age or infirmity hold her back.

“I lost my husband 20-odd years ago, and I've been alone all that time,” she said. “I just feel it's up to me to push myself and achieve what I try to – even if I get some of the quizzes wrong!”

Norma’s great age shows how far a positive spirit and a sense of humour can take you.

“The only thing I can think about life is I'm not a religious person; I try not to do nasty things, I try to treat people decently, as I like to be treated. As far as that goes, that's my religion! And just find some nice people to be with – and I think I've found them here!”

Many happy returns, Norma.

This story Norma Griffiths still full of life at 96 first appeared on The Armidale Express.