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Centenarian offers advice on life

Mae Irving has seen the invention of radio, pop-up toasters, TV and jet engines, just to name a few.
Mae Irving
Mae Irving celebrated her 105th birthday at the South Granville Seniors Centre in May. Photo Dan Toulgoet

It’s 3:15 p.m. at the South Granville Seniors Centre on a damp Tuesday afternoon and Mae Irving admits she’s a little tired.

And it’s no wonder — so far that day Mrs. Irving had visited with friends, blew out candles on a birthday cake, sang, enjoyed lunch, played bingo and did an interview with a local TV station.

But when the Courier shows up to interview Mrs. Irving before she heads home, the 105-year-old shakes off her fatigue, takes off her coat and as she begins to speak, easily charms everyone within earshot.

She’s seen a lot in her 105 years — the invention of radio, pop-up toasters, TV and jet engines, just to name a few — but today Mrs. Irving doesn’t want to talk about the past, but rather the state of American politics.

“I watch an American [TV] station with my granddaughter,” says Mrs. Irving. “I’m worried the Americans are going to come for us because it’s happened before. What goes around comes around, but you’re not here to talk about that.”

Instead of dwelling on the past, Mrs. Irving entertained this reporter with stories about her life today. She enjoys going out to eat (White Spot), likes to crochet and has fun playing games and cards with friends.

But that’s not to say she didn’t share some stories about early life in Vancouver. As a young woman, Mrs. Irving used roller blades as her main source of transportation and enjoyed dancing — she hails from a family of dancers. Mrs. Irving was married to the love of her life, Maurice Irving, who died “years ago,” after a 58-year career in the railway industry. The couple had one child, a daughter who passed away at age 69. Fond memories of her husband include hot air balloon rides in both the Fraser Valley and North Shore and a trip down the rapids of the Thompson River.

Mrs. Irving, who worked as a telephone operator for years, says she’s seen more changes in Vancouver than she can count, but increased crime is one of real concern.

“You used to be able to go visit someone you just met for a cup of tea — and leave your door unlocked while you were gone, but not anymore,” says Mrs. Irving. “And Vancouver has become a very expensive place to live.”

As for her longevity, Mrs. Irving says she’s always been a walker, loves food with garlic and ginger in it and never smoked or drank.

“I tried smoking once and I remember I just kept spitting out the tobacco that kept getting in my mouth because there was no filter,” she says, shuddering at the memory.

She also credits the seniors centre’s staff and volunteers for helping to keep her happy and healthy. And when asked for advice after having lived so long, Mrs. Irving ends the interview not with thoughts on longevity, but rather for life.

“Always tell the truth, because if you lie you have to keep telling one after another to keep it going,” she says. “That’s why I’ve always told the truth.”