A great great grandmother, who has just celebrated her 109th birthday carried on going to the gym to do kick boxing until she was 103 and only stopped on doctor’s orders.
Merah Smith, who was born in 1912, the same year the Titanic sunk, celebrated her birthday at her flat in South London surrounded by friends and family.
The God-fearing centenarian is believed to be the oldest woman in London.
Despite her age, the former nurse, who is originally from Jamaica and goes by the name of Louise, exercised at her local gym every week until she turned 103.
Only when she developed a knee problem and doctors warned she should take it easy, did the centenarian pack in the kickboxing and her other favourite hobby, line dancing.
Mrs Smith has three children, Irene, 87, Tony, 74, and Icha, 65, six grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren and three great great grandchildren.
Asked what the secret to her long life was, Mrs Smith said: “Eating good food like chicken, vegetables and fruit.
“No stress, but most of all reading the bible, praying and trusting in God.
“I was born in Kingston Jamaica and moved to The UK in 1963.
“I tell you what, I didn’t expect to live so long but anytime the Lord wants to take me, I trust him, he can take me.”
Mrs Smith says her favourite decade was the 1930s when she was in her 20s and met her husband – James, who sadly passed away from stomach cancer in the 1950s.
She continued: “One of my proudest moments was meeting and marrying my husband, but he died before me.”
While she has lived through many historical events, including two world wars, this year has been the hardest.
Mrs Smith said: “I’ve seen many things in my life, but this is the worst year I’ve been through.
“It’s been difficult because I haven’t been able to go outside.
“Before Covid I used to like walking a lot and exercising.”
In August, Mrs Smith asked her son if he would buy her an electric scooter, having seen them advertised on TV, so she could continue to venture out on her own. But it was not safe.
Her son Tony Smith, 74, a retired decorator said: “I knew she was going to live a long time.
“She told me she’s aiming to live until 115, and look there’s nothing wrong with her.
“She eats good food and believes in her church, that’s what keeps her young.
“She used to exercise a lot, going to the gym and kickboxing until only a few years ago when the doctors said she should stop.
“She would also go line dancing in Croydon with her troupe.
“I was so proud when I woke her up this morning – she looked so pleasant and happy.
“She is so strong and has a sharp memory, and can remember everyone’s name in photographs.
“I’m proud of her.”
Mrs Smith has received a card from the Queen every year since turning 100, but has misplaced a few.
At 103, she flew to Jamaica for a two week holiday and attended her granddaughter’s wedding in Cumbria, travelling back down to London on the train.
Asked what the biggest changes have been over the past century, Mrs Smith answered: “The biggest changes are happening right now.
“I want people now to turn their heart towards God.
“People now choose what they want to do instead of following God’s ways.”
Her fifth floor apartment is equipped with an mobility chair so she doesn’t have to climb the 13 steps up to her bedroom
Mrs Smith: “I want to say thank you to everyone for looking after me and especially to Tony, Pat and Irene.”
Her daughter Irene James, who also goes by the name of Astrid and is recovering from a stroke, added: “I feel so much love for her and am pleased she’s still with us because she’s a lovely person.
“When she was 103 she was still working the exercise machines at the gym.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect her to live this long. I was worried about Covid.
“Someone read her palm when she was young and said she was going to live a long life and make a lot of money.
“She got the long life but not the money.”