PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 October, 2003, 12:00am

Wong Kam-mui, 100, was born in Hong Kong the year the South China Morning Post made its debut. She complains about having to leave her home in Stanley, where she lived until five years ago. 'I've had two operations on my eyes, but I still can't see properly. That's why I am here,' she said, referring to the Madam Ho Sin Hang Home for the Aged in Pokfulam.

She has regular appointments to see an eye specialist, visits she detests. She misses the freedom of living at home and indulging in her favourite past time of going out for yum cha every day. That is the one drawback about living in an old people's home, she said.

'I have been a widow since the second world war and have had a very, very hard life. I was married to a well-to-do fisherman. I was his second wife, so I did all the work around the house. His first wife had six children. I had one son and two daughters. So my job was looking after all nine of them. It wasn't easy, especially as all the children, including my own, had to refer to her as 'mother'. I was always busy. I never had time to myself. This became worse after my husband died and we were dependant on the older children - her children - for support.'

Her son, a fisherman like his father, and daughter-in-law supported her when she lived in Stanley, and her daughter-in-law and granddaughter looked after her following her son's death 'many years ago'. Her two daughters married and left the fishing community and she has no idea where they live, but they visit every two weeks.

Her one passion in life now is eating. She is happy at the home because they feed her well, even though she has no teeth.

'My needs are simple. As long as I am able to eat, everything is fine. They always make a special effort for me. I get everything the others get, but they blend mine, so I am able to swallow without actually chewing. It is like eating very thick, but tasty congee.'

Ms Wong is bent almost double and sits with her elbows resting on her knees. It is difficult to imagine that someone with her posture could possibly walk, or even stand. Yet, when the aroma of the afternoon treat wafted over from the dining hall, she showed how wrong perceptions could be.

'Food,' she said. And in a blink, she has grasped the walking frame next to her, hauled herself to her feet, and made her way out. 'Can't talk any more,' she said as she hurried off. 'It's time to eat.'