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Gordon leads his mates into Fourth Age

Date

Kate Corbett

Gordon Lockwood, 90, at Goodwin House in Ainslie, he believes it is important to keep active.

Gordon Lockwood, 90, at Goodwin House in Ainslie, he believes it is important to keep active. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

He is probably one of the most positive, sprightly gentlemen you will ever meet and Gordon Lockwood believes he would not have lived to the ripe age of 90 if he was lazy.

''I don't think I'd be here today if I wasn't active during my life all of the time,'' he said from his home in Goodwin Village at Ainslie.

''I used to go to the gym three times a week, play tennis, play golf, I was active all of the time. I think my wife got a bit fed up of me really,'' he laughed.

Mr Lockwood has slowed down a bit since then, but not much. He is still playing croquet, golf (on a putting green), bridge and has recently taken up tai chi.

''The only way to keep alive is exercise and moderation in eating. I mean that's the problem - now I don't do enough exercise,'' he grins.

Mr Lockwood is part of a growing group of Australians aged over 85, a generation that demographers have started calling ''the Fourth Age''.

Mr Lockwood laughs at that label, unsure if it is a good or bad thing.

But he is sure that moving from England to Canberra 45 years ago was a wise decision, particularly when he hears the ACT has the highest life expectancy rates in Australia.

New Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show babies born in the ACT in 2011 are expected to live until they are 82.9 years old, well ahead of the national life expectancy rate of 81.4 years.

Canberra boys are expected to live until their 81st birthday and girls until they are 84.8.

Mr Lockwood is not surprised.

''It's a very good place to be actually from the point of view of the air one breathes for a start and the seasons - it's quite good,'' he said.

The active Mr Lockwood bucks the trend of many people in his age group who have become isolated from the community.

Professor Laurie Brown of Canberra's National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) has just won a $200,000 federal government grant for a study into the diversity, wellbeing and life experiences of the nation's oldest.

She is concerned about the negative image of Australians aged over 85, particularly as the number of ''Fourth Agers'' is expected to climb to about 1.6 million by 2041.

''It's a bit like people with a disability, they seem to be isolated somewhat,'' she said.

Professor Brown is hoping her three-year project will change the perception of the elderly and influence public policy.

''The majority of older people are still living highly productive lives and we shouldn't get blinded by [those who are not],'' she said.

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