South African ‘world’s oldest man’ wants to stop smoking

Fredie Blom
Image captionFredie Blom says there is no special secret to his longevity

Fredie Blom spent most of his life as a labourer – on a farm and in the construction industry – in apartheid South Africa but he might soon be recognised as the world’s oldest man, as the BBC’s Mohammed Allie reports from Cape Town.

Although he gave up drinking many years ago, Fredie Blom is still a regular smoker.

“Every day I still smoke two to three ‘pills’,” – local slang for tobacco tightly rolled into a cigarette-length piece of newspaper. “I use my own tobacco because I don’t smoke cigarettes.

“The urge to smoke is so strong. Sometimes I tell myself I’m going to stop but it’s just me lying to myself. My chest chases me to have a puff and I’m then forced to make a ‘pill’.

“I blame the devil for that because he’s so strong,” he says with mischievous grin.

Celebrity status

The first thing that strikes one when meeting the centenarian is how remarkably healthy and solid he still looks.

A tall, well-built man, he walks unaided, if understandably slowly, and besides being a touch hard of hearing, he has absolutely no ailments.

The former farm worker, who turned 114 on 8 May, is said to be the oldest person still alive although this is yet to be verified by the Guinness World of Records.

The title was last held by a Jamaican woman, Violet Moss-Brown, until 15 September 2017 when she died at the age of 117.

Guinness World of Records says it is still consulting genealogists to confirm the next holders of the “world’s oldest man and woman” titles.

Fredie Blom
Image captionThere were doubts about his age until he produced his birth certificate

Mr Blom, who sports a slightly unkempt handlebar moustache and grey stubble beard, doesn’t have any special secret for his longevity.

“There’s only one thing – it’s the man above [God]. He’s got all the power. I have nothing. I can drop over any time but He holds me,” is his response when I ask him what keeps him going.

“I feel very healthy, I’m good. My heart is strong but it’s only my legs that are giving in – I can’t walk the way I used to,” he says, speaking in Afrikaans with a loud and clear voice.

He has inevitably acquired a celebrity status that has seen a constant stream of people ranging from locals to provincial government ministers coming to visit him in his modest home in Cape Town.

He said it’s a great feeling to know that people care. For his birthday, a local supermarket and the provincial department of social development presented him with big birthday cakes.

Fredie Blom and his wife
Image captionJanetta says her husband struggles to put on his shoes

Mr Blom is still strong enough to wash and dress himself although, according to his wife, he struggles to put on his shoes.

He also sometimes needs the assistance of his grandson to shave.

For someone who normally started his day at 4.30am in his working years, Mr Blom now rises much later and doesn’t do much around the house.

“I can’t do anything – I can’t even get on a ladder any longer. I just sit around. I don’t have time for the nonsense that’s on TV.”

He would rather sit outside his house and roll up another piece of newspaper and give in, once again, to the devil’s temptation.

BBC

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