Villagers toast the secret to a long retirement – a glass of the hard stuff

Hinton St George has the UK's highest life expectancy for men over 65. Liam O'Brien meets some of its residents

Hinton St George's residents are pretty pleased with themselves. This small Somerset village of 400 people has the highest life expectancy for retired men in the country. Here, men over the age of 65 – and there are a fair few of them – can expect to live 88.7 years, four more than in the Bootle area of Liverpool, which has the lowest life expectancy for those currently of pensionable age.

Enjoying what they describe as a "media frenzy" – a few photographers and a reporter – residents are happy to regale everyone with stories of what they believe holds the key to a long life: most often, they claim, it's a drink.

In the Lord Poulett Arms, James "Jock" McKee proclaims alcohol's life-giving powers. "I don't do much except come to the pub – that's about it," the 86-year-old admits. Every day he has half a Carlsberg and four or five generous measures of Betty's Whisky – though that depends, a bar manager interjects, "on how he has behaved".

"Most of them have at least one glass of red wine a day," confides Gill Esp, a woman in her sixties who works at the local tea shop. Indeed, this tea room also runs a wine club, but Ms Esp and her fellow members won't tolerate any old plonk. "No no, they order from the wine society," she says. At the last meeting Alison Peat succeeded in bamboozling everybody with her South African chenin blancs. Perhaps it's this discerning taste in wine that means the women can expect to live for 91.6 years on average.

There's no avoiding the real reason behind the residents' long life expectancy, however: it is the quiet wealth of the place. The larger cottages sell for more than £1m, and the stress of poverty is absent.

Hinton St George is a world away from Bootle, which has struggled to recover from the closures of the nearby docks in the 1970s and 1980s, languishing at the bottom of the life-expectancy table. Based on the mortality rates of 150,000 retired people, a survey by Towers Watson found that male pensioners over the age of 65 in that part of Merseyside will live to just 84.9 years.

So would Barry Tyler, 62, a Hinton resident for 33 years, ever dream of swapping lifestyles and moving to Bootle? "Yeah, can't wait," he jokes.

Old age, however, isn't always such a boon. At 98, Neil Hooper, a former aircraft engineer, is the village's oldest resident. Although he's looking forward to his card from the Queen on his 100th birthday and "still gets up and down the stairs", the years have taken their toll. He's hard of hearing, and is almost completely blind. His day, he says, is spent thinking of what he's going to have to eat – and he only eats frozen meals. Since his wife, Betty, passed away two and a half years ago at the age of 92, he has been looked after by his carers. But while it's a "quiet way of life", he's excited by the prospect of the village's Jubilee street party.

Many of the village's younger men commute to London every day, where a few serve as barristers – but they have come to Hinton to relax and refuse to bring the city stress back with them.

"In other places, you see people scrubbing their driveways and keeping up with the Joneses, but you wouldn't have that here," says Jane Bourne, 38.

They're already planning this year's "punkie night" – an October tradition when women take revenge on men who have drunk too many "flagons of the local cider" by chasing them around the High Street with hollowed out vegetables. If they ended this tradition, perhaps they could all add yet another year on to their lives.

Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Lars Ulrich of Metallica performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Graduate Recruitment Resourcers - Banking Technologies

    £18000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Huxley Associates are looking...

    Implementation Engineer

    £150 - £200 per day: Orgtel: Implementation Engineer Hampshire / London (Gre...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Pharmacuetical

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Real Staffing, one of the UK'...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform