ONE of Essex’s oldest residents says the secret to a long and healthy life could be a glass of popular wartime drink Ovaltine before bed each night.

Audrey Grogan, who is now a resident of Blackbrook House care home in Dedham, marked her 108th birthday on Wednesday with a glass of champagne and slice of cake at a party with residents and staff.

The supercentenarian, who lived entirely independently at her home in Frinton until after her 100th birthday, said she doesn’t feel like one of the oldest people living in the county and even in Britain.

She said: “I do not feel 108 but with my age I have never cared. I am not worried about it.

“When I was young I had no-one to care for me so I was forced to care for myself. I just get on with life. I do not really know what the secret is. I have never smoked which could help.

“Me and my husband John used to have a drink of Ovaltine every night for a long time, I wonder if that helped.

“I don’t know what advice I would give to people. Maybe try drinking Ovaltine.”

Audrey was born in Gravesend in Kent in 1911 - three years before the start of the First World War.

Both of her parents died at a young age after a serious illness and she moved into an orphanage to be cared for.

Later in life, she moved to London and started a career as a nurse, living through both the world wars.

And it was through her career she met her beloved husband, John, who died more than two decades ago.

Audrey said: “I met John when I was working in a hospital as he was a patient I looked after.

“He had pneumonia and he was in a private ward where I looked after him.

“We were together for some time before we got married.

“It wasn’t so bad living through the wars. I managed.

“I couldn’t believe it when the Second World War started after the first.

“I remember hiding in the air raid shelters, but you just got on with life.

“I loved being a nurse and I was given three medals for doing my exams.”

John went on to be a director at Ford’s famous car factory in Dagenham.

It wasn’t until the couple got towards retirement age when they decided to move out to north Essex, where they firstly settled in Ardleigh.

Audrey said: “We got a bungalow with a nice big garden and we even had a gardener.

“John was a very good painter and when he retired he joined Dedham Art Group.

“I didn’t join with him as I wasn’t very good myself.”

After John died Audrey moved to a retirement flat in Frinton, which was the couple’s favourite place to visit.

She spent many happy years by the sea before a fall at home meant she was forced to move into the care home full time from November.

Audrey said: “I collapsed and had to go into hospital and they eventually transferred me.”

She is much-loved by the staff and other residents at the care home, although she said she still wishes she had her own home.

Always a keen gardener, she was also an expert knitter in the past.

“I used to do quite a bit of knitting when I was younger,” she said. “I would make jumpers for me and John to wear.

“I was a keen gardener and loved our garden.”