Olivier, 101, the focus of BBC television special report

Olivier Bell pictured with presenter Joan Bakewell in the garden at Charleston, near Firle
Olivier Bell pictured with presenter Joan Bakewell in the garden at Charleston, near Firle

A 101-year-old from Firle will appear in a Panorama Special due to be screened by the BBC on Monday (October 23, 8.30pm).

Olivier Bell is among the case histories featured in ‘Life at 100’, an hour-long edition of the flagship current affairs programme.

There are some 14,500 centenarians in the UK – a number due to double every 10 years. One in every three babies born now is likely to live to be at least 100.

But no one seems prepared for this explosion in society: not the Government, not the NHS, not their families, not even the centenarians themselves.

Presented by Joan Bakewell, the Panorama Special promises to be full of surprises. Among the seven case histories who have reached 100 years or more, the programme features Olivier who, thanks to her wonderful carers, is still able to live in her Sussex cottage, where the Panorama team filmed her this summer.

The programme highlights Olivier’s care arrangements against a backdrop of squeezed NHS budgets and exponentially rising demand for the very old.

Her daughter Virginia Nicholson said: “Care is needed by almost all – from the NHS if they are ill, or social care paid for by themselves and their families, or by the local authority.

“In this context the nation faces a slow motion car crash. For families caught between the needs of their surviving parents, and those of their children and grandchildren, this is an unbearable choice. But it is one we must all prepare for.”

Olivier is the editor of five volumes of The Diaries of Virginia Woolf. She has two honorary doctorates, has received the MBE for services to art and literature, and was awarded a US Congressional medal for her work with the ‘Monuments Men’ in post-war Germany.