A former grazier from the outback Queensland town of Roma has become Australia’s oldest man on record.
At 111 years and 124 days old, Dexter Kruger has today overtaken World War I veteran Jack Lockett, who died in 2002 aged 111 years and 123 days.
The former veterinary surgeon is also a poet and an author who has spent his life on the land, refusing to retire from his 5,300-hectare cattle property in the Maranoa region until his mid-90s.
Much of his longevity he puts down down to the simple lifestyle he enjoyed in the bush.
“It’s because I do things differently,” Mr Kruger said from an armchair at his aged care home.
“I lived very close to nature and I ate mostly what I grew in the garden or the orchard or the farm.”
Born on January 13, 1910, before telephones or refrigeration, Mr Kruger has lived through world wars, droughts, depressions and pandemics.
Every day the supercentenarian completes a strict morning exercise regime, soaks up vitamin D outdoors, and works on his latest book – an autobiography of the century he has spent on the planet.
He also manages to keep across current affairs, referencing the state of the nation’s vaccine rollout and the growing scourge of domestic violence.
“I don’t think [today’s world] is a nicer place, I do not,” Mr Kruger said.
“People are not happy. They have too much debt … We have far too much money to spend on rubbish.
“Until we got all this computerised technology, life was much more relaxed.
“There are marvellous things you can do with a little chip, but we were once very much more relaxed.”
A small party will be thrown to mark the milestone event, with the Australian Book of Records and various politicians expected to attend the celebration.
‘Plenty of salt, sugar and fat’
Mr Kruger’s 74-year-old son Greg said his father’s simple lifestyle and balanced diet, complete with “plenty of salt, sugar and fat”, had a lot to do with his age.
“He lived through a period that was a lot less stressful than what society is faced with today,” Greg Kruger said.
“He didn’t go around chasing the bright lights, he was happy being around horses and cattle.
“His system wasn’t worn out trying to process the junk food – he’s never been overweight, always active.”
While never a big smoker or drinker, Mr Kruger recalled a weekly delicacy he credited to his longevity.
“Chicken brains,” he grinned.
“You know, chickens have a head and in that is some brains, and they are delicious little things. There’s only one bite.”
‘Sharp as a tack’
Manager at Pinaroo Roma aged care facility Melanie Calvert said Mr Kruger was in better health than many residents aged in their 80s and 90s.
“He’s probably one of the sharpest residents here,” she said.
“His memory is amazing and his cognitive functioning is unbelievable.”
Ms Calvert attributed his age to a combination of factors, including genetics, a balanced diet and regular exercise.
But she said what sets him apart is his strength of character.
“He’s strong in the face of adversity – he has that positive mental attitude that keeps him going,” she said.
“He sets goals to write books, to achieve milestones, and I think that keeps him going.
“To be able to have that personality – that doesn’t get down on things, that picks themselves up and gets on with it – I think that’s a big part of living longer.”
Centenarians a rapidly growing demographic
Across Australia and in many nations around the world, the number of people living beyond 100 years is at record highs.
There are more than 6,000 centenarians currently living in Australia, according to the Bureau of Statistics.
The federal government expects that figure will more than double by 2032 due to Australia’s ageing population and a steadily increasing life expectancy.
By 2084, the government estimates Australia will be home to more than 100,000 centenarians.
With a large part of his day spent reminiscing, Mr Kruger’s fondest memories are of his wife Gladys, who he described as “the love of my life”.
“I didn’t have to go chasing after females. I had a girl who wanted me, and it wasn’t very long before I realised that this was the girl for me,” he said.
Recalling the dating scene of the 1930s, Mr Kruger paints a starkly different picture from today’s world of direct messages and dating apps.
“We were out in the bush. There was no way you could take Gladys out to the movies or take her out for dinner, so I visited her in her home,” he said.
“Sometimes it would be three weeks or more before I could see her.
“I didn’t have any wheels, but I had four legs – some good horses – and I rode through the night to be with my girl the next day. I loved every minute of it.”
His secrets to a long life?
Mr Kruger’s only advice for others seeking a long life is to simply “eat good food”.
“People do eat too much… they eat themselves into the grave,” he said.
“Take a day at a time and make the best of it.”
As for his next goal? Aside from making it to his 112th birthday, Mr Kruger has set his sights on becoming Australia’s oldest person ever.
The title has long been held by Christina Cock, who died in 2002 aged 114 years and 148 days.
“I’d like to live until I find it too difficult to live,” Mr Kruger said.
“I’m already one-third of the way to 112, and that’s a fair nudge”.
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