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Simple life and hard work key to longevity

Update: January, 02/2012 - 17:31


Sharing and caring: The old couple still looks after each other.
Happy birthday: The family gathers around Huynh Van Lac, 110, and Nguyen Thi Lanh, 106 in HCM City. — VNS Photos Tran Hoai Nam
The Viet Nam Records Book Centre has recognised Huynh Van Lac, 110, and Nguyen Thi Lanh, 106, of HCM City's District 12, as the oldest couple in Viet Nam. Do Ba-Quoc Thinh reports

Huynh Van Lac, now 110 years old, lost his father when he was only six and helped his mother raise his four siblings with little time to focus on his social life.

Lac, who lives with his wife, Nguyen Thi Lanh, 106, in HCM City, was a hard-working boy and became a skilful farmer from a young age, growing rice, vegetables, orchard trees and tobacco. Lac met Lanh, who's brother was a tobacco seed trader and they were married six months later.

The couple's fourth daughter Huynh Thi Hoa said her mother loved her father after seeing how devoted he was to his own mother.

They were married at the ages of 28 and 24, which then seen as quite late and Lac said he understood the difficulty his wife experienced during the marriage and the ups and down the couple have faced during their life.

However, he emphasised that they rarely argued and when they did, the excellent cooking skills of his wife magically solved their problems.

Their daughter Hoa said everyday her parents sat next to each other on their two small beds talking although they were almost deaf.

"My father will not have meals without my mother," she said.

In 1998, the couple were hospitalised because Lac suffered from a stomach-ache and his wife had a tumour that required surgery.

"All the time, my father asked about my mother's situation and she asked about his," Hoa said.

Lanh refused surgery and said, at her age, that living with family and being cared for by her children was her happiness in life, which was enough.

Hearing that, Lanh was also discharged from the hospital and they both recovered at home and have been healthy ever since.

Huynh Cong Dien, one of their grandchildren, said that as a farmer, his grandfather liked talking about rice crops and stories about agriculture that reminded him of the past and his love of rice.

"Whenever he refuses to eat, we tell him that we grew the rice ourselves," Dien said, adding that, to his grandfather, rice grown in their fields was the most delicious.

"They were not fussy eaters," Hoa said, adding that Lac liked all kinds of noodles, while his partner preferred rice and that their daily diet always had boiled vegetable.

"My father never drinks beer or wine but he used to smoke a lot," she said, because he grew and sold tobacco.

During the 1980s, he quit smoking on the advice of many people.

Ba Sen, a local hairdresser, said he had regularly cut the couple's hair at their house since 1970s.

"I took over my father's job," Ba Sen said, adding that Lac never forgot to pay him regardless of age and that cutting their hair was a pleasure.

Neighbour Trinh Van Don said that the couple was a good example to follow as they were hard working, honest and helpful.

"I remembered that as a traditional medicine seller, Lac helped patients with all his heart and usually gave free medicine to poor people," Don said.

Seeing their happiness, Don said, newly-married couples in the neighbourhood usually asked them to spread their mat for the first time on their wedding bed, which was believed to bring good luck to young couples.

Lanh and Lac have two sons and two daughters; the oldest son is 75 and the youngest daughter is 69. They have 24 grandchildren and 41 great grandchildren in total.

Sharing tips of their longevity, Lac said they had no idea what food was best for longevity, but that they just lead a simple life, worked hard and got along well with others.

Lanh said it was because their children took good care of them.

Huynh Thi Hoa, a daughter who did not get married and lived with the parents, said that seeing children and grandchildren grow up, work and lead good lives was the biggest joy for the couple.

Experiencing ups and downs in their own life, they also witnessed great change in HCM City. Their stories have inspired people, not because of how long they have lived, but because their family had always taken care of them. — VNS

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