As Peter Marson relaxes with a cup of tea in the comfortable surroundings of Westbridge House in Enniskillen, he overlooks the swirling waters of Lough Erne and reflects on life and why people are living longer.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency recently found that the population of over 85s has been increasing by around 900 people each year for the past decade.

“I always try to live life like a well-tuned string,” said Peter, who moved to the supported housing accommodation at Westbridge House in his early eighties.

He will turn 85 in January 2018.

“Once you get to eighty you don’t know from one day to the next how long you can expect to go on so you must take every day as it comes,” he said. 

“Living here independently, you have the ability to pull a chord and you will receive assistance. 

“There’s a real sense of security and the staff are terrific.”

A native of Harrogate in Yorkshire, Peter married “a Belfast girl” and moved to Northern Ireland where he worked in law before travelling to Spain to qualify as a teacher of English with the British Council in Valencia. 

He later worked for Local Enterprise Development Unit (LEDU) assisting new, export-oriented agri companies which had growth potential.
“I retired at 60 and my wife said: ‘You can’t sit around the house’ so I became a volunteer recruiter for the National Trust,” said Peter. 

He had visited Castle Coole on a number of occasions and when a position came up for administrator, he jumped at the chance.
“I got the job on the basis that I’d give them five years, so from 1994-98 I lived in Castle Coole East Wing,” explained Peter.

Poignant memories include his involvement in establishing a Christmas concert at the stately home; a tradition which continues each year, and inviting the Irish cricket team to play of the front lawns.

It was in Castle Coole that the history buff found his calling upon being appointed as Lord Belmore’s archivist, a position he still enjoys today.
“The Castle Coole families never threw anything away so, apart from a number of items that were sent to PRONI (the Public Records Office of NI) in the seventies for safety, the attics, drawers and bureaus were full of papers. 

“Tucked away in the back of one cupboard I found an early copy of the deed of Enniskillen in Latin,” Peter revealed.

His face lights up when he says of his archiving project, “we have a historical catalogue from 1666-1949; a modern private archive for the Belmore family; and a collections archive containing toys, gardening equipment etc.”

Peter’s daily routine entails waking up at 7.30am and making breakfast which consists of either muesli and banana, Shredded Wheat or a boiled egg. 

Then, it’s either a drive to work at Castle Coole (three days a week) or a walk along the river. 

When he is not working, he is reading through historical documents from the comfort of his home. 

A cup of tea is a necessity after work and then Peter sets about making his dinner at 6.30pm – stir-fries are a favourite.
“I suppose I do eat quite healthily when I think about it, but I don’t do it consciously,” he commented. 

A night cap of whiskey is poured as he settles in to watch his latest favourite Netflix series ‘Designated Survivor’ or to read a good book.
“I need eight hours sleep so I get to bed at 10.30pm,” he says.

Peter believes that people are living longer because of “advances in public health”. Looking at his own health, he said: “I was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. My GP red flagged it and from diagnoses to treatment was four weeks. The chemotherapy and hormone therapy I got at the Belfast Cancer Centre was excellent and they got it under control.”

He added: “A lot of people aren’t drinking or smoking as much and in Enniskillen you are getting lovely, clean air which I like to breath in while I’m walking along the river!
“I’m glad I made the move to Fermanagh.”

His happiest age was 12 because “that’s when you’re most in control.”

Peter elaborated: “You’re grown up enough to know what’s going on. You know your mind, you’ve got your mates, you haven’t yet run into teenage angst and girls come into it later!”

His secret to long life is: “Good genes”.