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Tuesday, 6 February, 2001, 15:36 GMT
Reagan turns 90
Ronald and Nancy Reagan
A rare picture of the Reagans at last year's birthday
Ronald Reagan has reached the ripe old age of 90, one of only three former US presidents to do so.

Tuesday is likely to be a day of low-key celebration for the former film star, however, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease and had hip surgery three weeks ago.


I think Ronnie would want people to remember him as he was

Nancy Reagan
"We will celebrate Ronnie's 90th birthday very quietly here at home, with a birthday cake of course!" his wife, Nancy, told the Associated Press.

Her husband, who left office in 1989, has spent his sunset years largely in seclusion in Bel Air, California, since he announced that he was suffering from Alzheimer's in 1994.

According to Mrs Reagan, very few visitors are now allowed access to the former president.

Ronald Reagan
The president revitalised Republican fortunes
"I think Ronnie would want people to remember him as he was," she told CNN's Larry King in an interview.

People who have seen Mr Reagan say the disease has taken a heavy toll and he could not remember them or his presidency.

Mrs Reagan said her husband was in good shape apart from the Alzheimer's, and could live to be 100.

"He looks fine. I mean, you know, his skin, and he's got a full head of hair.

"When the barber comes to cut his hair, he has to thin it!"

Great survivor

Born in Illinois, Mr Reagan headed to Hollywood, featuring in 50 films.

He first become involved in politics as a Democrat but his political career took off as a Republican, when he won election as California governor in 1966 and again in 1970.

In November 1980 he defeated Jimmy Carter to win the presidency, securing re-election by a wide margin four years later.

He survived an assassination attempt in 1981, a colon cancer operation in 1985 and skin cancer and prostate surgery two years later.

Of former White House incumbents, only John Adams and Herbert Hoover have lived as long.

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See also:

13 Jan 01 | Americas
Reagan 'fine' after surgery
09 Nov 99 | Americas
Reagan rides again
02 Mar 99 | Americas
Reagan for Rushmore
25 Sep 99 | Americas
Reagan biography: Fact or fiction?
20 Dec 00 | A-B
Alzheimer's disease
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