A pensioner has become Britain’s oldest person with Down’s Syndrome after celebrating his 78th birthday – despite doctors saying he would not live beyond 10.
Sprightly Georgie Wildgust puts his longevity down to a love of dancing and an active social life surrounded by a strong network of family and friends.
Strictly Come Dancing fan Georgie is now believed to be one of the oldest people in the world with Down’s syndrome and the oldest in the country.
He celebrated the milestone in August with a socially distanced birthday party in the gardens of Watcombe Circus care home in Carrington, Nottingham.
A singing group, conducted by Georgie, entertained family and friends before they enjoyed a buffet of food and cake.
Georgie moved to the specialist home in 1993 following his mother’s death and has lived there ever since with 12 other residents.
He has defied the odds to reach the ripe old age of 78 after medics feared he would never see his teenage years.
Niece Nikki Wright, 44, from East Leake, Notts., who visits him every week, said: “It’s brilliant he is now officially the oldest person in the country with Down’s syndrome.
“It is quite an achievement and we’re all very proud of him.
“We were able to go see him on his birthday and we had a lovely day with a buffet, cake and a singing group.
“Georgie stood at the front and was conducting them, I think he really enjoyed it and it was lovely to be able to celebrate with him and the other residents.
“Its amazing for him to get to this age, my grandma was told he would not live past ten-years-old because of his Downs Syndrome. But they were wrong. Look at him now.
“Its probably because he has such a lovely childhood with my grandma and granddad and when he came into the home as well he really was looked after.
“He still is and they spoil him rotten. He is really happy here and is surrounded by 12 other residents who are around the same age.
“He was always told by his mum that he can do anything and because of that, he has always been very independent.
“My grandma was a dress maker and granddad worked down the pit. They lived together in Nottingham and the kids always went out to play in the middle of the square.
“Nobody picked on him, they all took him under their wing and looked after him. It was one big happy community who looked out for each other. So he’s always been very sociable.
“Back then doctors just wrote people off who had Downs Syndrome as they weren’t classed as ‘normal’. Some were sent off to asylums in padded cells I believe.
“It was awful really but Georgie has always had a strong network of family and friends around him and that’s why he’s done so well.
“He doesn’t like being told what to do really but I do think that is why he has reached 78.”
Georgie was one of three children and was born at home in the Cinderhill area of Nottingham on August 16, 1942 to parents Hilda and Abraham.
His younger brother, Colin, 71, died three years ago but younger sister Jean Yessyan, 79, still keeps in touch with him via Skype in Australia.
Georgie worked as a gardener and rug maker before retiring and now spends his days at the care home enjoying his favourite past-times.
Nikki, a post office worker, added: “He likes going out for dinner, colouring books and especially dancing.
“It keeps him young and he loves watching Strictly Come Dancing on a Saturday.
“He also enjoys going the sea-side and having fish and chips and ice cream.
“Obviously we haven’t been able to do that during the pandemic but the care home staff have been brilliant keeping them all entertained.
“Every week we Skype each other and have a chat with my sister who lives in Australia.
“I think being kept busy and socialising here has really helped him. The staff are amazing and it is such a family here.”
Georgie has become the oldest person in the UK with Down’s syndrome following the death of Robin Smith, of Kettering, Northants., who died last month aged 78.
People with Downs Syndrome are expected to live to their 50s these days but the life expectancy was much lower during the 1940s.
A Down’s Syndrome Association spokesperson said: “Thanks to medical advances and the care and love of those around them, the average life expectancy for people with Down’s syndrome is now between 50 and 60 years, with a small number of people living into their seventies and beyond.
“Everyone at the Down’s Syndrome Association wishes Georgie a very happy birthday and all the best for the future.”