It is easy to picture Ngai Mui-chu as the lady of the manor in a world that no longer exists. She looks every inch the product of her times and upbringing - the cultured, pampered daughter of a prosperous family in imperial China. The native of Dongguan, in Guangdong province, dresses immaculately, holds herself erect and speaks in a clear voice. What's amazing about this elegant woman is her age. She is 104 years old, but looks just 80. She still walks an hour every morning for exercise and visits the hairdresser at least once a week. But she had to stop reading her favourite newspapers two years ago when her eyesight began to fail. Ms Ngai was born in late 1898 into a big, wealthy family. Three of her uncles were high government officials in China. She married into an even richer family and never knew what work was until her in-laws decided to move the family to Hong Kong. 'I had everything a young girl could possibly want. I had private tutors and servants to wait on me hand and foot. I didn't have to work. All my needs were seen to. I lived at home with my parents until I was married at 23. Life with my in-laws was good. I didn't have a care in the world. 'We ran away from China because of the troubles there [after the Qing empire collapsed]. Things got too much and my in-laws decided it was time for a change and moved the whole family to Hong Kong. They had a printing business in China and started a new printing company in Central after we got here.' By the time the Japanese invaded Hong Kong in 1941, both her husband and father-in-law had died and she was running the business. Ms Ngai is vague about the war years, which were spent in Hong Kong, but says that after the war, she started her own printing business with the help of her nephews. They employed 10 people and she gradually handed over control of the business to her nephews, who talked her into retirement about 30 years ago. They supported her until the business closed down. 'My husband died in the Kwong Wah Hospital after a long illness,' she said. 'He wasn't even 30 when he died. I don't know what the cause of death was, but for a very long time he seemed to be off-colour, nothing really serious, but I suppose it must have been serious. 'When I retired, I enjoyed yum cha and mahjong with friends and neighbours. In the early 1990s, when I was a resident at one of the Helping Hand care homes in Chuk Yuen. I used to walk 20 minutes each way daily to my old neighbourhood in Wang Tau Hom just to play mahjong. The walk was good exercise,' she says with a mischievous look. As a resident of the Helping Hand Chak On Care Home in Shamshuipo, she says she is too far from her old friends and misses the daily get-togethers. She also misses a nearby street stall, which closed down a year ago and put an end to her daily routine of going for morning yum cha. Ms Ngai says she has seen much in her long life. There have been great changes, but not all for the better. She laments the fact that old values - particularly respect for elders - are disappearing and wonders what has happened to proper filial piety. Hong Kong has changed for the better for most people here, but not for her personally, she says. (She is now alone and a welfare recipient.) She does not know why she has lived so long but says she has made one concession to old age: 'I used to have a cold bath every day until I turned 100. Then I told myself I'd better put some hot water in the tub. After all, I was beginning to get old.'