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Why we still choose to work in our 90s

Ellla Towell, Cliff Parker, Irene Astbury

"Age is nothing but a number," the saying goes, and Prince Philip has shown you can still carry on working into your 90s.

The Duke of Edinburgh has decided to stand down from public engagements at the age of 95, with the full support of the Queen.

He carried out 110 days of engagements in 2016, making him the fifth busiest member of the Royal Family - despite his age.

Here other nonagenarians reveal why they are still working and whether they plan on reaching Prince Philip's milestone.


Ella Towell, 90, works two days a week at the Claire House Children's Hospice charity shop in Mold, north Wales.

Her previous jobs included working in an engineering firm, a canteen and as a factory supervisor.

Image copyright Claire House Children's Hospice
Image caption Ella Towell says it is not difficult to get up for work as she has never needed much sleep

"I decided to start volunteering because I had a look around the Claire House Children's Hospice and was impressed with the nursing staff and I thought, 'Gosh, I'd like to help.'

"I spoke to the manageress of the shop in Buckley and she said, 'Get here now and get your coat off.' I worked every day there for six years.

"My family started grumbling at me that I was always in the shop and wanted to take me out so I decided to retire at 86. I had only stopped two weeks when the area manageress asked me to do two days a week in the Mold shop so I did.

"I still want to do it because of when I went to the hospice. The nurses and volunteers there should have Victoria Crosses.

"It's not difficult getting up and getting into the shop. I'm downstairs before five o'clock in the morning. I don't go to bed early but I've never needed that much sleep.

"I'm still active. My usual routine is get up, first big mug of tea with a tablespoon of whisky in it. I've done it for years and I haven't got arthritis.

"I serve customers behind the counter and I'm on the till at the shop. People aren't surprised I'm working at 90, they know what I'm like.

"I don't have any plans to give it up for good. I still feel I'm able to help the community at large, especially places like Claire House.

"Children's welfare interests me. If someone comes into the shop with a kiddy in a pushchair, I'm there pulling faces.

"If I can carry on until 95 I will do. You can never predict what your health will be like, but I hope so."


Irene Astbury, 90, works full time at Pet Food Supplies in Macclesfield, Cheshire.

She set up the shop with her late husband, Les, 36 years ago.

Image copyright Gayle Parks
Image caption Irene Astbury, with members of her family, works in a pet shop set up with her late husband

"We opened the shop on 9 March 1981 and took £9 that day. We thought, 'What have we let ourselves in for?' as it was slow to begin with.

"I've been coming to the shop for the last 36 years and don't know any different. It's not hard working 40 hours a week as it's what I know.

"People can't believe and are quite surprised when they hear I'm 90.

"I still serve a few customers and will answer the phone occasionally.

"I enjoy making everyone a cup of tea and toast at brew time and my three great-grandchildren, Evie (six), Isabelle (three) and Harry (one), come to the shop most days. I enjoy seeing them and playing 'shops' with the older two girls.

"I still enjoy working, even at my age. I enjoy meeting people and customers and talking to them as I'm interested in what they're all up to.

"I don't have any plans at all to retire. As long as my legs will still bring me to the shop I have no plans to stop working.

"My gran was 102 when she died so I have a long way to go yet.

"The secret to a long and active life is to keep going, enjoy it, along with good health.

"I can still see myself working up until the age of 95 just like Prince Philip did. Longer if I can."

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Cliff Parker, 90, works for Focus Education, a company founded by his daughter, Linda, which provides educational support to primary schools and academies, in Saddleworth, Oldham.

He served in the army during the 1940s and went on to become a grocer, landlord and worked for Oldham Council.

Image copyright Focus Education
Image caption Cliff Parker says he chooses to work because he does not want to sit at home and do nothing

"I choose to still work at the age 90 because it gives me something to get up for in the morning.

"I bind educational books in the mornings, and in the afternoon I deliver books and parcels to schools. I'm the errand boy in the afternoons.

"I like being busy and being around people, no-one can bind books as good as me.

"It's not difficult to get up for every morning for work. I am always up early.

"I could start later in a morning if I wanted to do, but I enjoy going to work and joining in with the staff and I love being with company.

"I don't want to retire, working is what keeps me going. I don't want to sit at home and do nothing.

"People can't believe I am still working at my age, they say it's brilliant.

"I love going to work every morning and it gives me a purpose in life.

"I can definitely see myself working until the age of 95. Unless I pop my clogs first."

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