100 YEARS YOUNG: From left, Iris Allen, Phyllis Bender, Jean Bannister and Emily McNamara are all centenarians, having turned 100 this year.
100 YEARS YOUNG: From left, Iris Allen, Phyllis Bender, Jean Bannister and Emily McNamara are all centenarians, having turned 100 this year. Jackie Munro

Incredible lives of four 100-year-old women

FOUR Northern Rivers women have led very different lives, but one thing unites them - they have all just turned 100.

Iris Allen was born in Sydney, while Phyllis Bender was born in Ulmarra.

Jean Bannister was one of Australia's first flight attendants and travelled the world, while Emily McNamara was raised on a dairy farm outside Lismore.

The women, who are all residents of RSL LifeCare's Fromelles Manor in Lismore, gathered together for Phyllis' 100th birthday on Friday to share tales about their own lives and experiences.

Phyllis grew up on a farm near Ulmarra and said she was raised with a passion for the outdoors.

She loved fishing, gardening and camping, and would gladly spend months on holiday at the beach at Browns Rocks, near Goodwood Island on the Clarence Coast.

She said life was very different when she was a child, where life on the farm was tough, and had to ride a horse to school for "miles and miles".

She said she missed the dances every Saturday night, where her father would play the accordion.

Emily agreed with Phyllis about the benefits of an outdoors upbringing, and said when she was born, her father was a sugar cutter in Childers, Queensland.

"When I was six, we came to Lismore and moved onto a dairy farm," she said.

"It was hard work living on a farm back then."

Emily said she has witnessed plenty of changes during her lifetime, and said people were "much friendlier back in the old days".

For Jean, her younger years were exciting, although she said it was difficult during WW2.

Jean first got a degree and worked for a law firm, but later became one of Australia's first air hostesses.

She said she remembered visiting many countries during her career.

Iris was born in Hurstville in Sydney, and said she couldn't believe how much the suburb had changed during a recent visit with her daughter.

She said she knew the secret to living to a grand age, and she said it was because of her active lifestyle.

"The secret is staying active," she said.

"I used to climb Mt Warning and just really have a busy life."