Laurie Coates Inspirational Elder at 100Laurie went to the doctor the other week which is not unusual – he has superficial skin cancers all over his body. What startled the doctor was when Laurie asked him if he could check his heart. The doctor did so – and looked at him in amazement. “You’ve got the heart of a 16-year-old” he said.

Always good news when you’re 100 and well on your way to your 101st.


Laurie Coates is something of a legend in his corner of the world in Russell, New Zealand. Well into his 80’s he fell out of a tree he was pruning, dusted himself off and promised his shocked family he probably wouldn’t do it again. He has never suffered any serious disease in his life. Some say he’s been lucky. Others that it comes down to the healthy legacy of genes he inherited. He puts it down to a sensible life, with sensible food and plenty of sleep. These days he’s less mobile than  he used to be using a zimmer for getting around the house. But when the sun’s out, he walks carefully backwards down the stairs to his mobility scooter and zooms off to the beach.

He spends much of his life in the great outdoors, was a cycling champ as a young man, and later a boatie who spent weekend fishing in the Waitemata. After 40 years running his own cycle shop in Balmoral, Auckland, the lure of the sea and the warmer temperatures tempted him further north. He sold his house and business and retired at 60 to the Bay of Islands. What he really settled into though, was a new routine. Eating “sensible food, not the rubbish you buy in shops these days. No takeaways.”

“Sensible” meant standard English cuisine minus his two most hated veges, cabbage and cauliflower.

He joined the local communities work projects planted trees, and flowers, and generally helped to beautify the beach and surrounding area. “I think getting involved with community really helps. It does help mixing with people – keeps your brain active.” He remained active physically too, launching his boat into the Bay of Islands’ waters until his 80s. He thinks his cycling days helped build his fitness. The ‘huff and puff’ of distance riding helped his lungs he says. “Being outside – it’s good for all sorts of things. Cycling is really muscle exercise and rally helps your breathing. You take in big gulps when you cycle. It probably expanded my lungs.”

But being physically active meant that Laurie kept himself busy on all sorts of projects throughout the day, whether it was fixing bikes for locals in  his garage or planting and harvesting his vege garden.

Those who know Laurie well also know the line he borrowed from the song: Don’t worry, be happy.  “The big thing is not to worry. I’m not a huge worrier – not a great deal anyway. Some people worry themselves to death about things they cannot change.” So his live-long formula includes, sensible diet, exercise, outdoor living, sports of one kind or another, familiar routine and community involvement.

Was there anything else he might not have mentioned like alcohol? “You just drink sensibly.” He says “I’ve never go stuck into the grog too much. Don’t think I’ve been drunk in my life”.

If there’s a common thread running through his comments, it’s this:  He’s a moderate man who believes in moderation in all things. No fights. No fuss. No excesses. Just the best thing that nature, routines – and perhaps altruism – offer us all.