I’ve found the secret to living a REALLY long life… move to the coast! The WWII hero who is one of 168 cenenarians living beside the seaside – what’s the life expectancy in YOUR area?
- Des Curtis, 100, is one of the 168 centenarians living in Bournemouth, Dorset
- It is one of the UK’s ‘blue zones’ with one of the highest levels of people aged 100
- Our interactive map reveals life expectancy in your area according to the census
A 100-year-old World War Two hero who is one of a whopping 168 centenarians living in a seaside town thinks it is so popular among his generation due to nostalgia from childhood holidays.
Des Curtis lives in a flat in the affluent Westbourne suburb of Bournemouth, the Dorset resort with one of the highest proportions of centenarians in the country, one of Britain’s ‘blue zones’.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show that out of the ten local authorities with the highest levels of people over 100 years old, nine of them were along the coast, including Folkestone, North Norfolk, Somerset West, Rother, Dorset and Fylde.
Des moved down to the south coast from Surrey in 1985 after retiring from the petroleum industry and initially lived in the market town of Wimborne, before relocating to Bournemouth in 2015.
Des said he believed many of his generation fell in love with ‘elegant and genteel’ Bournemouth on seaside holidays in the 1920s and 1930s.
The period saw a surge in popularity in the British coastal getaway as families had more disposable income in the inter-war years.
RAF veteran Des Curtis recently celebrated turning 100. Bournemouth has one of the highest proportion of people living past 100 in the country with 168 residents over the milestone
Des said: ‘I think you have to go back in time to get the answer as to why there are so many centenarians here.
‘I believe that not many centenarians will be born and bred in Bournemouth. I think a lot of us were attracted here by happy memories of seaside holidays when we were growing up.
READ MORE: What is the life expectancy in YOUR area? Interactive map reveals how average man born in Westminster can expect to reach his 85th birthday while man in Glasgow will be lucky to see 74
‘Bournemouth had a reputation as a genteel, elegant place with a nice way of life. I moved down to Dorset after retiring and have been in Bournemouth since 2015.’
Widower Des believes in ‘living for today’ and enjoys a regular liquid boost from Bombay gin.
Head of lifestyle at the Institute of Economic Affairs, Christopher Snowdon, agreed, telling the Telegraph said that many people who reach Des’ long life by the sea likely did not grow up there, but had instead moved their to retire.
He said that while the fresh sea air will likely improve your health as you age, the most likely explanation for the ‘greater density of old people on the coast is that they go there when they retire’.
Mr Snowdon added that all people can afford this, it means that people who retire to the seaside are more likely to be wealthy – and richer people tend to live longer.
In East Devon, 64 people per 100,000 are 100 or over, while in Arun it is 59 people and in the New Forest 57, according to the data.
In England and Wales, just 18 local authority areas were home to more than 100 over 100, including Birmingham, which had 193, Cornwall, with 177, Dorset’s 176 and Bournemouth’s 168. The only area with no centenarians was the Isles of Scilly.
In 2021, the census counted 13,924 people living in England and Wales, a rise of 24.5 per cent from 2011.
The ONS researchers said: ‘The number of people living to age 100 has increased over time as life expectancy has improved. Since 1921, the number of centenarians in the population has risen from 110, a 127-fold increase. However, in 2021, centenarians still only represented 0.02% of the total population.’
Retired couple Carole and Andrew Williams said they planned to spend the rest of their lives in Bournemouth as it is ‘too nice to move away’
Anthony Roberts (left), 79, a retired engineer, said Bournemouth’s secret was ‘fresh air, climate and it being a beautiful place’. His views were echoed by retired civil servant Barbara Lobley (right), 77, who was on a week’s holiday from Liverpool.
Locals and holidaymakers at Bournemouth pier put the town’s high centenarian population down to the fresh sea air, climate and plentiful walks
There are nearly 2,000 beach huts along Bournemouth beach, enabling the town’s booming elderly population to enjoy the sea air and bask in the sunshine
Locals and holidaymakers at Bournemouth pier put the town’s high centenarian population down to the fresh sea air, climate and plentiful walks.
There are nearly 2,000 beach huts along Bournemouth beach, enabling the town’s booming elderly population to enjoy the sea air and bask in the sunshine.
The seven mile long flat promenade which stretches from Hengistbury Head to posh Sandbanks provides ample possibilities for daily exercise.
Retired couple Carole and Andrew Williams said they planned to spend the rest of their lives in Bournemouth as it is ‘too nice to move away’.
Carole, 56, a former housing industry worker: ‘I think you have to be reasonably wealthy to afford to live in Bournemouth as properties are quite expensive, and a lot of people come to retire here.
‘There is a lot less deprivation here than other seaside towns and quite a nice mix of young and old people.
‘With the beaches and the walks, you are incentivised to stay active which helps with a long and healthy life.’
Retired IT company worker Andrew, 58, added: ‘We will never move away, it is too nice a place to live.’
Pensioners who can afford expensive properties at the seaside town are more likely to have a ‘better quality of life’, it was claimed.
Linda Kellett, 71, a retired college lecturer, said: ‘People do retire to seaside resorts, so they do have an older population.
‘I think those people who are well off can afford the homes here so they have probably had a better quality of life.
‘There are nice walks and it is fairly flat along the beachfront.’
Anthony Roberts, 79, a retired engineer, said Bournemouth’s secret was ‘fresh air, climate and it being a beautiful place’.
His views were echoed by retired civil servant Barbara Lobley, 77, who was on a week’s holiday from Liverpool.
She said: ‘I’ve been coming down here for the past 10 years for the fresh sea air and the nice walks. It does everybody good.’
Linda Kellett (pictured with husband Phil), 71, a retired college lecturer, said: ‘People do retire to seaside resorts, so they do have an older population’
The seven mile long flat promenade which stretches from Hengistbury Head to posh Sandbanks provides ample possibilities for daily exercise
Tourists and locals walk along Bournemouth Pier on a windy September day
Michaela Bunch 67 and her husband Bill, 71, with dog Barney, think Bognor clearly has a lot to offer.
Michaela said she thinks one of the main reasons why people live so long is the town is flat. ‘It’s flat! There’s only one hill,’ she said.
‘It’s the only place anybody can learn to do hill starts when they’re taking the driving test.
‘It also means there’s less chance of tripping over. That’s a really big thing.
‘There is posh here and the people coming down from London can get a lot for their money.’
Bognor Regis has always had royal connections and Michaela thinks this may be attracting wealthier pensioners.
‘Diana’s family lived here and a lot of people thought William and Harry would be coming here. Sadly, that’s never happened but there are still strong royal roots here.’
Michaela said her family moved to Bognor when she was little girl. ‘My parents bought a house her for £8,000 when I was ten,’ she said.
‘My dad was told to move to the south coast for the good of his health and it seemed to work. He lived till he was 89.’
Michaela and Bill have been married 43 years. ‘This place has certainly got something about it,’ Bill said.
Anne and Ray King, both 81, moved to Bognor to run a post office and stayed after they retired.
Michaela Bunch 67 and her husband Bill, 71, with dog Barney, think Bognor clearly has a lot to offer
Anne and Ray King, both 81, moved to Bognor to run a post office and stayed after they retired
They think the climate around Bognor is a big factor in helping people live longer. ‘We moved about 30 years ago from Kent,’ Ray said. ‘The temperature here is much better.’
Anne said the sense of community really helps. ‘The people here are very nice and friendly. I’m sure that helps,’ Anne said. ‘We’re not quite there yet, but we’re not doing too badly.’
Ray added: ‘Things are starting to go a bit wrong now, but we are doing alright.’
Bognor is not without its problems, Ray said. ‘It’s rife with shoplifting. It was a problem even back then when we moved here.’
Brenda Thorn, 87, said she moved back to the UK from Kenya and settled in Bognor 54 years ago.
She agreed one reason why people live longer in the south coast town is the lack of hills.
‘It’s flat,’ Brenda said. ‘People do have a healthier lifestyle too. I’ve always done a lot of walking and cycling.
‘A lot of the people who come down from London like the look of the place and then come back.’
Brenda travelled the world as a teacher and set up nursery schools in Kenya before returning the UK.
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