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A special 100th birthday

Above: Lilian enjoys a 100th birthday hug from Red Cross caller Miryam


By any measure Lilian Tigell has led a remarkable life.

So when she turned 100 it was only right that as well as her daily welfare phone call from Red Cross she received a visit from some of the very people who make the calls.

Born just after the outbreak of World War One, she's done everything from raising six children, buying then milking her own cow every morning and growing her own food and even timber. Later she created a network of social hubs around Queensland, interstate and even overseas, set up tour groups and published several books of poetry.

Miryam Caldarone from Telecross said after making regular calls to Lilian for more than two years, she felt privileged to meet her in person.

"We don't often get the chance to meet our Telecross clients - that's not part of the program we offer - but on this occasion we were able to drop in and wish Lilian a happy 100th birthday," Miryam says.

For Lilian, the daily calls she receives from Red Cross are a godsend.

"I'm so grateful," she says. "They cheer me up."

"It's meant a lot. I look forward to every morning, to hearing the voice. We always have a bit of fun. Nobody would think I was crook because I can always make a joke of it," she says with a smile cheeky grin.

She says even though they don't chat for long, the Red Cross workers who ring her every day have become her friends, and she's often touched by the things they mention to her when they call, including remembering special days and events in her life.

And for Lilian that could include many things, thanks to the number of achievements she's notched up over the years. As well as publishing several volumes of poetry, she also created the over 60s club in her home town of Toowoomba, which spread to three other Queensland cities as well as Sydney. She was invited to talk about it at a conference in Canada, where the model was adopted.

Lilian has always been at the heart of social activity, helping people connect, and now, aged 100, she says there aren't many people left from her earlier social networks which is why she looks forward to her daily calls from Red Cross.

Telecross is one of a number of programs for people who are vulnerable as a result of being isolated, older or having reduced mobility.

Each year around 3700 trained Red Cross volunteers and staff members call more than 6800 people who live alone and are at risk of an accident or sudden illness that could go unnoticed.

Trained, friendly Red Cross people make calls each morning, 365 days a year. In the event of three unanswered calls in one day, Red Cross begins an emergency activation procedure to make sure the person is OK. The details of the activation are prearranged with each person registered for Telecross.

Staff who train and support the volunteers are also trained to manage the 9000 activations that occur each year when people don't answer their calls. In the majority of cases the person is found safe and sound but for those who are ill or injured, these dedicated staff are a lifeline to the help they need. Each year around 1000 people who receive calls become ill or injured and Red Cross is able to raise the alarm and contact someone to check on them, in some cases making the difference between life and death.

And for Lilian that's brought real peace of mind. Even though she's had six children and has numerous grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, it's not always possible to keep in touch for a range of reasons.

"So I think you do a marvellous job, I really do," she says.