Story by Anna Williams, Marlborough Express, 1.7.13 photo by Emma Ellen

As the oldest-ever Masters Games competitor in New Zealand, Picton man Ian Mathieson credits keeping active as the key to success for older people.

Mr Mathieson, who celebrated his 99th birthday in May, is set to smash his own record as the oldest competitor by walking in his fifth South Island Masters Games in Nelson in October.

The World War II veteran was pretty fit during his time in the army, but after he got back to New Zealand in 1948, he piled on the weight and smoked fulltime.

"Everybody smoked in those days," he said.

"I was a quartermaster in the army and I gave them out. Even the doctors smoked."

After the war he worked as a chemist in Geraldine and got up to 85 kilograms before a warning from a doctor prompted him to quit smoking and get active.

"I gave it up and started to run," he said.

"I'm down to 11 stone [about 70kg] now. I'm getting skinny."

Almost five decades later, Mr Mathieson makes sure he exercises regularly. Three times a week he gets in his car and drives from Picton to Blenheim where he walks in the pool at Stadium 2000 on Kinross St for an hour.

When his replacement knee allows it, he will also clock up 15 minutes on the treadmill and lift a few weights in the gym.

His wife died two years ago and the trip to Blenheim from Picton lets him catch up with friends.

"The business of getting in here gives me exercise and gives me energy," he said.

"A man living on his own at my age is not good. I'm finding it tough, but I've got a lot of friends and they've been extra good to me here."

Elderly people needed to get out of the house more and keep active.

"It's in their hands. They're going to end up in care if they don't," he said.

"It's the secret to success for older people."

He is gearing up to walk 2.5km in Nelson in October in his fifth South Island Masters competition.

"It's an incentive for me," he said.

"If I didn't do it, I'd go backwards, wouldn't I? I'll be doing one when I'm 100."