I spent the last few days in Colrain, Massachusetts visiting with extended family in anticipation of a huge milestone: my great-grandmother’s 100th birthday.
To put it in perspective, here are a few things that happened the year she was born:
- The RMS Titanic set sail on it’s maiden voyage. In other news, an iceberg also was making its maiden voyage that day, too…
- Fenway Park opened and went on to host many, many Bruce Springsteen concerts and a few Red Sox games.
- Paramount Pictures and Universal Studios were both founded. They went on to produce small-budget indie films like Godfather, Jaws, and Forrest Gump.
On Saturday, more than 160 relatives and friends gathered to celebrate her achievement. Also in attendance was a photographer with the local newspaper, which was featuring her in an article. Did I mention that Obama sent her a birthday card, too..? She’s kind of a big deal.
That anybody makes it to one-hundred years old is a remarkable feat in itself, but what stood out to me was how she arrived at the century mark – she is thriving.
Here are a few things I noticed that I think have helped her age so well:
She maintains a healthy diet
You are not going to like this: she doesn’t drink soda or booze. Never has. I had lunch and dinner at her house two days in a row, enough time for me to see that she is very conscious of her portions and eating a balanced meal. She also gave me the stink-eye when she saw me sitting down to dinner with a Diet Coke in my hand. I can’t imagine what she would say about my absurd obsession with M&Ms. I am not making it to a hundred.
She is independent…with a little help from family
My great-grandmother lives on her own and maintains the same single-family home she’s resided in for the last 20 years. That being said, she has a TON of family and friends that live within two square miles of her home. People are constantly stopping by to check-in on her and drop things off. She only recently had to stop driving, but she has no shortage of volunteers to take her shopping and to doctor appointments.
She is both physically and mentally active
Hands-down, the most impressive thing about my great-grandma is how great her body is holding up. She walks and moves around extremely well – not a single trace of a limp or awkwardness, completely unassisted by a walker or cane. She told me at one point that she misses hunting – her last kill was a 12-point buck at the ripe age of 74. And, without a doubt, she is still very sharp – she’s an avid quilter, loves to play board and card games, and hardly watches any TV. Her sense of humor is still great, too; after I didn’t have any luck opening a chip bag, she insisted on giving it a shot and pulled at it until she was red in the face. She couldn’t get it open, thank God.
Honestly, when I hear of someone making it to triple digits, I think to myself, “I bet they’re just barely hanging on.” I’m a bit of a Gerontophobe, but after seeing my great-grandmother’s health and lifestyle at 100, I have some hope that life doesn’t automatically end after 60. MP.