Recently, retired British Army Major John Hamilton, who lives in the Wiltshire village of Sutton Veny in the south of England, celebrated his 100th birthday. He joined the service in 1939 and served with the 1st King’s Dragoon Guards, a cavalry regiment in World War II. A career soldier, he served for twenty-five years in places like Germany, Palestine, and Jordan as a tank instructor.
How did he celebrate his important milestone birthday? By adhering to his usual routine of visiting the local gym for a ninety-minute session, which he does every weekday morning at 8 o’clock. He has been a regular patron at the Harridges Health and Fitness Studio in Warminster for the past 12 years.
Hamilton was always the athletic type. When he was young, he participated in various types of competitive sports. Rugby, squash, polo, tennis, and cricket were all part of his life as he was growing up and this continued to be the case during his service years. Just five years ago, at the age of ninety-five, he broke the world record for a 1000m time trial in a rowing contest for those aged ninety-four to ninety-nine and has since decreased his time, which he puts down to moving on to heavier weights. He usually spends about twenty minutes on the exercise bike, another fifteen minutes on a treadmill, performs an impressive number of stomach crunches, lifts free weights and occasionally does the plank.
Hamilton credits his long lifespan to exercise and stated, “The key to a long life is exercising and going to the gym – it makes you physically well but is mentally stimulating too. If I didn’t go I think my last days would be long gone by now.” He used to smoke a pipe but has since given that up. The last time he went to the store to get some tobacco he lost it and believed that it was a sign. He claims his exercise routine has improved now that he can breathe better. He does, however, allow himself a glass of wine every other day.
Hamilton still lives on his own, an unusual feat for someone his age. He has no signs of arthritis, heart or respiratory problems. His bones are strong, and he visits the doctor only twice a year for a checkup. He has the reflexes and mental acuity of someone half his age. The retired Major still drives his own car, a Volkswagen, and recently had his license renewed.
The one problem of living such a long life is that Hamilton has outlived most of his friends. Elsa, his wife of sixty-seven years passed away in 2006, and in 2013, his best friend of eighty years passed away at the age of ninety-seven. He and Elsa met in 1939 in Hyde Park during a rainstorm. They courted for three years before marrying and became the parents of three children, grandparents of eight children and great-grandparents of ten children. While he always misses his wife and friend, long walks in the country and time spent with his family makes things better.
Hamilton, who cut quite a dashing figure in his youth, appears to be no more than seventy years old physically and believes he may live another ten years. “I feel so fit and healthy like I could live on for another ten years or more. Someone asked me if I would quit going to the gym when I’m 100 and the answer is no. I feel good but it’s confusing – I’m so full of life and almost waiting for something to go wrong.”
It’s amazing to think that during his lifetime he has seen telephones go from a huge clunky box on the wall to handheld cell phones, television from a small black and white screen to the sixty-inch high definition flat screens of today and cars evolving from the Model T type to cars that drive themselves. In his lifetime he went from using protractors and long division to solve math problems to the lightning-quick computers of today. While he is waiting for the catch regarding his long and fruitful life, John Hamilton continues to keep himself fit and healthy, and hopefully, he will live another ten years or more.