Erica continues to add to magical memories of a life well lived
"AS I write this, I am already past 98 - I know of no one older, which makes me feel at once isolated and alone.
"At 80, I gave myself a licence to do what I liked: I had the ready-made excuse that I was old; I would be automatically excused.
"But after 90, a subtle change begins to take shape; it's as though you have become invisible ...
"People around you are moving on with the times, and you are being left behind."
These are the words penned by Burleigh Heads woman Erica Holmes, 99 next week, as part of her 6600 word treatise on being Beyond 90, which led Seniors newspapers to seek her out for a chat.
Still with a sparkle in her blue eyes, her own home, cooking all her own meals, gardening, sewing and researching her beloved Vedic astrology, she encourages other Seniors to stay healthy, positive and keep challenging themselves.
"YOU have to have a goal - somewhere you want to get to or something you want to achieve, otherwise you're just hanging around waiting to die," Erica said.
That goal doesn't have to be big but gives you a reason to get up in the morning.
Write it down, if only to remind yourself, and try and achieve one goal or piece of a plan each day.
"If you have nothing to look forward to, then there is nothing to strive for - all that is ahead of you is emptiness," Erica writes.
Everyone, she says, should have something pleasant to look forward to every day - a walk, a cup of tea and a good book, time in the garden - because it is too easy in old age to become "too involved with yourself ... magnifying every little pain" and allowing time to drag.
"It is much better to rely on yourself for your happiness than to expect others to create it for you; after all, they are busy with their own lives," she wrote.
Having run the City to Surf at 69, Erica is currently doing hand strength exercises, with the aim of indoor rock climbing with her grandson next year.
"It's amazing what you can do once you get started ... but you have to do it yourself," she said.
A Life Less Ordinary
ERICA'S life has indeed been amazing - reading like a romance adventure novel.
Growing up in Melbourne, and forced to start earning her own living at 15, she married young and unhappily.
"When you're young, you haven't got much sense really, but you don't know how stupid you are yet," she laughed.
After 13 years, she had had enough, and spurred on by the words of an astrologer, ran away.
Dyeing her hair blonde and assuming an alias, despite no previous experience, she talked her way into work as a cook for 30 people on a remote cattle station outside Charleville, where she said "everyone was using an assumed name".
It was just one of the decisions which she said "have led me away from an ordinary life" - a wonderful segue into her 17 years touring the world as a magician's assistant.
Having met and married a mystic magician who was a snake-handler, hypnotist and sword, fire and glass-swallower, the pair toured the world as "Aly Kabah and Enrica" through the 1950-70s.
The name Enrica was originally the result of a printing mistake, but the couple liked it, and it stuck. They performed in London, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa, climaxing in a performance at New York's famous Madison Square Garden.
"WHEN I look back on everything I did, I just laugh," Erica said.
But she sees being able to look back on those memories which we've spent a lifetime gathering as "our most precious asset".
And if your memory isn't what it once was, short of a medical condition, find a way around it, she advises, by writing yourself notes or using other tricks.
"People forget things at all ages, but they only make a big deal of it in old age," she writes.
TODAY, she said, after initial frustration at not being able to do all she used to, she has accepted that her body has slowed down and that everything takes longer than it used to.
"Even the simplest of chores, as in washing up, can throw up a hundred challenges - you can't see to clean properly ... you break things because your grip is not so strong ... even standing at the sink is too much," Erica writes.
But that doesn't mean you give up, or accept that sickness and old age go hand-in-hand.
Alongside eating well and keeping active, thinking positively is incredibly powerful, she said.
"We should always be on our guard to avoid negative thoughts.
"If we do stumble over one, then we should immediately replace it with a positive one," she writes.
"The easiest way to avoid thinking negatively is to keep the mind occupied with other things: listening to music is a good diversion...
Not only, she says, will lack of exercise lead to being out of condition and subject to illness, it's also boring, and leaves you with nothing to talk about.
HAVING started with Erica's written word, we will finish with it, because with 99 years of experience behind her, she has earned the final say.
"Deep inside us we are the same person at six as we were at 60, or at any age.
"What has changed mostly is the body.
"But the body is only the vehicle we are using in this world; the real you is that wonderful thing inside you called the life force."