Centenarian Kesentseng Mirriam Ratladi (102) and her son Osborne, enjoying some precious time together.

There aren’t a lot of people who can say that they have lived through both the Spanish Flu and the Covid-19 pandemics in their lifetime. But centenarian Kesentseng Mirriam Ratladi (102) can certainly tick both these boxes as she was born in 1918, the year in which the Spanish Flu claimed the lives of more than 5 million people worldwide in just over a year. No less than 300 000 South Africans succumbed to this disease in a space of six weeks.

No small wonder then that her parents gave her the first name, Kesentseng, meaning “what did I do to be born in this difficult year.” She however prefers to be called Mirriam. We caught up with her and her son, Osborne (63) at the FWC Hospice Centre in Hursthill where Mirriam is now a long-term frail care patient.

Despite her age and some memory loss, Mirriam can still recall incidents that had a lasting impact on her life and the lives of her husband and eight children. The forced removal of families from Sophia Town to Meadowlands, she says, still hurts today. ‘We had a nice home where memories were made, and just like that, was taken away. Everything was stolen, we were left with nothing.”

Mirriam’s husband, Mpekile Titus, took matters in his own hands and eventually found a decent home for his family in Dube, Soweto where they then moved to. Mpekile unfortunately passed away in 1974. “My mom was one of the most hard-working women I knew,” Osborne says. “She did everything, from painting the house to cleaning, gardening and cooking. She taught all her boys, there were seven of us and only one girl, how to do our own washing, ironing, and many other skills,” a proud Osborne explains.

According to Nurse Manager at FWC Hospice, Sister Lucille Dawson, Mirriam is quite remarkable. “She has no comorbidities such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, nothing! She doesn’t go to the clinic, sees no doctor, it’s incredible for a person of her age.”

The nursing staff sees to a daily exercise programme for Miriam which includes breathing exercises, warm-up exercises to ensure better circulation, resistance exercises for muscle improvement and walking with her walker.

“We are extremely happy with the care my mother gets at this hospice. She’s been here since May 2018 and we couldn’t have asked for a better facility to take care of our mother in her old age,” Osborne says.

On asking her for her recipe for good health and a long life, Mirriam’s answer is short and sweet: “Cabbage, lots and lots of cabbage and other veggies. And of course hard work,” she laughingly admits.

*If you would like to know more about the long-term frail care programme at FWC Hospice, kindly contact them on 011 837 2999 or email info@fwchospice.org.za