March 2, 2010

AUSTRALIA: Vi the volunteer turns 108 in her Coogee home near Sydney

COOGEE, NSW / Southern Courier / News / People / March 2, 2010

By Nick Moncrieff-Hill

At 108 years old, Coogee’s very own living miracle Vi Robbins is still the life of the party.

Vi was the guest of honour at last week’s Volunteers Appreciation Day at The Prince of Wales Hospital, where she still helps out every Tuesday without fail.

“I love volunteering,” she said. “I’m pleased to do it, I enjoy it and I’ve got plenty of time on my hands to do it.”

Vi was presented with a certificate of appreciation and a chocolate cake from Michel’s Patisserie, Randwick, by her friends at the hospital.

“She joined us about 10 years ago and has been very special ever since,” volunteer Sylvia Baynes, from South Maroubra, said.

The Courier fell in love with Vi last year while visiting her Coogee abode to celebrate her 107th birthday. One year on, she has lost none of her charm. Vi celebrated her 108th birthday on Sunday with her family, including her daughter, Gail, four grandchildren and five greatgrandchildren, who affectionately call her “Little Nan”. With much love and help from Gail and weekly visits from St Vincent’s Hospital’s Sisters of Charity, Vi is able to live unassisted in the suburb she has called home for 75 years.

An absolute marvel, Vi remains sharp as a tack. And although she suffers slightly from loss of hearing, she puts most centenarians to shame.

Although Vi confessed to a love of long walks, she was as baffled as the rest of her family as to the secret of her long and healthy life.

“I do love to walk. I used to walk everywhere in Coogee; you get to see everything,” she said. “I wish I knew, because none of my family has lived this long. I just think I have had a good happy life, I’ve had good health, and it makes a difference to have a good family.”

© 2010 News Community Media

She's on official records
Could this be Australia's oldest hospital volunteer?


Anyone walking down the busy corridors of the Prince of Wales Hospital on Tuesday mornings might be forgiven for missing the slight, beautifully dressed lady walking purposefully to work. Vi Robbins is one of Coogee's best known characters.

Vi was born in 1902 when the Prince of Wales hospital was still the Randwick Asylum for destitute children and just before the Wright Brothers took their first flight. She has lived in Coogee most of her life and people frequently stop her to say hello as she walks to the shops. Besides her clerical work at the hospital, she is also in her 49th year as an active member of the Randwick branch of the fundraising organisation Soroptimist International.

Her daughter Gail, who is also a volunteer in the Prince of Wales Wig Library said Vi was always among the first to volunteer for any fundraising and she has worked tirelessly for various community organisations including Coogee Public School P & C and Alcoholics Anonymous. She recalls Vi telling her about a visit to an old people's home in Malabar. "She told me she felt sorry for the residents and that she should visit them more often," said Gail. "I thought that was amusing because most of the residents would have been at least 20 years younger than her!"

Vi puts her continuing vitality down to a healthy life. She never learned to drive so she had to walk a lot and she has never smoked and only drinks on social occasions. Eventually however, she did get a little arthritis at 96 and had a cataract operation two years later. Now she still lives on her own, does most of her cooking and reads at least 15 library books a month.

Three years ago she found herself with "a bit of time on my hands", and discovered that the Prince of Wales Hospital was short of volunteers. "I love working there, there's always something new happening and everyone's so bright and friendly," she said.

As for her age she says she rarely thinks about it. "I've been lucky, I've had a wonderful life and I intend to keep on keeping on and enjoying it, she said.

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