Australia’s oldest man says ‘live simply’ and eat chicken brains

Australia's oldest man, Derek Kruger (Photo: ABC).

Australia’s oldest man has revealed some of the secrets of his longevity – including eating chicken brains.

Former rancher and vet, Dexter Kruger is 111 years and 124 days old and told the ABC that a weekly dose of the poultry delicacy had helped to keep him healthy over the years.

The former grazier from the Queensland town of Roma has become Australia’s oldest man on record.

Mr Kruger has today overtaken World War I veteran Jack Lockett, who died in 2002 aged 111 years and 123 days.

Having spent his life on the land, the former veterinary surgeon only retired from running his 5,300-hectare cattle property in his mid 90s.

“It’s because I do things differently,” Mr Kruger told the ABC from an armchair at his aged care home.

“I lived very close to nature and I ate mostly what I grew in the garden or the orchard or the farm.”

Photos and an old wireless on a bedside table
Mr Kruger listens to the news each morning via radio as he does his daily exercise regime.(ABC News: Phoebe Hosier)

Born on January 13, 1910 – before the invention of telephones or refrigeration – Mr Kruger has lived through world wars, droughts, depressions and pandemics.

“I don’t think [today’s world] is a nicer place, I do not,” Mr Kruger said.

“People are not happy. They have too much debt … We have far too much money to spend on rubbish.

“Until we got all this computerised technology, life was much more relaxed.

“There are marvellous things you can do with a little chip, but we were once very much more relaxed.”

A small party is planned to celebrate Mr Kruger’s newest milestone, with the Australian Book of Records and politicians expected to attend.

Aged care residents with hands in the air.
Mr Kruger participates in a morning yoga class with fellow residents at Pinaroo aged care home in Roma.(ABC News: Phoebe Hosier)

Mr Kruger’s 74-year-old son, Greg, told the ABC his father’s simple lifestyle and balanced diet, complete with “plenty of salt, sugar and fat”, had a lot to do with his longevity.

“He lived through a period that was a lot less stressful than what society is faced with today,” Greg Kruger said.

“He didn’t go around chasing the bright lights, he was happy being around horses and cattle.

“His system wasn’t worn out trying to process the junk food – he’s never been overweight, always active.”

Old photo of man on horse with his cattle dog running beside
Mr Kruger has been a cattle farmer all his life, retiring in his mid-90s.(Supplied)

While never a big smoker or drinker, Mr Kruger says a weekly delicacy helped keep him healthy.

“Chicken brains,” he grinned.

“You know, chickens have a head and in that is some brains, and they are delicious little things. There’s only one bite.”

Manager at Pinaroo Roma aged care facility, Melanie Calvert said Mr Kruger was in better health than many residents aged in their 80s and 90s.

“He’s probably one of the sharpest residents here,” she said.

“His memory is amazing and his cognitive functioning is unbelievable.”

Melanie Calvert smiles in a corridor.
Pinaroo manager Melanie Calvert says Mr Kruger’s motivation to achieve goals keeps him going.(ABC News: Phoebe Hosier)

Ms Calvert attributed his age to a combination of factors, including genetics, a balanced diet and regular exercise.

But she said what sets him apart is his strength of character.

“He’s strong in the face of adversity – he has that positive mental attitude that keeps him going,” she said.

“He sets goals to write books, to achieve milestones, and I think that keeps him going.

“To be able to have that personality — that doesn’t get down on things, that picks themselves up and gets on with it — I think that’s a big part of living longer.”

Dexter Kruger's letter from the Queen
At 111, Mr Kruger is amassing a collection of letters from the Queen.(ABC News: Phoebe Hosier)

With a large part of his day spent reminiscing, Mr Kruger’s fondest memories are of his wife Gladys, who he described as “the love of my life”.

“I didn’t have to go chasing after females. I had a girl who wanted me, and it wasn’t very long before I realised that this was the girl for me,” he said.

Recalling the dating scene of the 1930s, Mr Kruger paints a starkly different picture from today’s world of direct messages and dating apps.

“We were out in the bush. There was no way you could take Gladys out to the movies or take her out for dinner, so I visited her in her home,” he said.

Photo of Dexter with wife Gladys
Mr Kruger was married to his late wife Gladys for more than 50 years.(ABC News: Phoebe Hosier)

“Sometimes it would be three weeks or more before I could see her.

“I didn’t have any wheels, but I had four legs – some good horses – and I rode through the night to be with my girl the next day. I loved every minute of it.”

His secrets to a long life?

Mr Kruger’s only advice for others seeking a long life is to simply “eat good food”.

“People do eat too much… they eat themselves into the grave,” he said.

“Take a day at a time and make the best of it.”

As for his next goal? Aside from making it to his 112th birthday, Mr Kruger has set his sights on becoming Australia’s oldest person ever.

The title has long been held by Christina Cock, who died in 2002 aged 114 years and 148 days.

“I’d like to live until I find it too difficult to live,” Mr Kruger said.

“I’m already one-third of the way to 112, and that’s a fair nudge”.