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Lessons on Longevity, Finding Joy, Preserving Women’s History, and more...
Celebrating Life After 50
February/M arch 2014
SERVING THE PUGET SOUND REGION SINCE 1986
Superagers – Living Well to 100 and Beyond Did you catch the recent coverage about the 100-year-old teacher? Agnes Zhelesnik was recently featured on several news outlets including CBS’s Sunday Morning program. Believed to be the oldest living teacher in America, Agnes Zhelesnik turned 100 last month. She teaches home economics at the Sundance
Grade School in North of her life (her husband Plainfield, New Jersey. didn’t approve of her The kids call her working, she said), Granny. but after watching According to the the children, then the report on Sunday Morning, grandchildren, and then Agnes puts in a full day of playing a lot of bridge, Agnes Zhelesnik, courtesy CBS teaching five days a week. she said that got old and Agnes was a homemaker for most she still felt young. So she started working
at age 81, reports CBS. She’s so devoted to her job that she has not called in sick since age 98. “All the children love her,” said one of her students. “The children make my day,” Agnes told Peggy McGlone in an interview for The Star-Ledger. “It’s a great life watching them grow up.” continued on page 8
Northwest Prime Time is proud to feature a handful of the many centenarians, or “superagers” living in the Northwest. We asked them each four questions: Please share your secrets to a long and healthy life; What is your best advice to younger people about how to live a happy, fulfilling life; What is one surprising or interesting change in the world that occurred during your long life – something that stands out above others; and finally, if you had to choose only one, what change in the world makes life better than it was “in the old days.” We hope you enjoy getting to know a little bit about this remarkable group.
Rev. Marion Kline
Rev. Marion Kline will turn 103 on April 22. Marion has led quite the unique life. In 1956, when the Methodist Board voted to admit women as pastors, she was among the first group of 27 women nationwide to be accepted. She graduated from the UW in 1933, has a Master’s degree, and received a Master’s of Divinity while pastoring. Marion first served a church in Wisconsin and then, at age 50, moved to the Philippines where she served as a missionary for 15 years. At 65, after moving to Olympia to help her brother, she ended up working for another ten years. She eventually retired at 75 and in 1988 moved to Wesley Homes in Des Moines where she continues to be active. “It never occurred to me that I would live so long,” Marion said. “I simply never thought about it. I was too busy. I enjoyed life, and my 90s were very good to me.” Marion, who never married, maintains a strong connection with others at Wesley Homes, her family, and colleagues connected with the Methodist ministry. To keep up on events, Marion reads and participates in discussion groups. Marion’s secret to a long life: “Enjoy and try new things. I learned to play bells when I was 90. And don’t admit that you’re too old to do things. When I was 90, I went to Vancouver, BC to see five plays in a week. I published my autobiography when I was in my 90s. I didn’t discover I was old until I was 99!” Her best advice for a happy life? “Have friends and travel with them. You have to enjoy other people. I went on 19
102-year-old Betty Negro was born on September 14, 1911 in Preston, Washington. She grew up in Preston but left at age 18 when she moved to Seattle and got a job in a bakery. She later worked for 28 years in a necktie factory. Betty married in 1937 in Camas, Washington. The couple had no children. Betty enjoys cards, board games “and stuff like that.” Her most inspiring moment was when she joined the Catholic Church in 1956 and received her first communion. Betty still attends St. Anne’s on Queen Anne Hill. Betty says her secret to a long and healthy life is “walking and water. I always walked a lot with my husband, taking a daily five mile loop through Lincoln Park. And I’ve always drank lots of water.” Betty’s best advice to younger people is: “Stay around old people so the old people can stay young!” To Betty, the most surprising or interesting change in the world was when electricity came to town. “I remember when we used to use candles.” She said electricity came to Preston for the first time when she was nine years old and she still remembers when they put in the wires. For Betty, a change that makes life better now than in “the old days” is transportation. She remembers the first family car. “Dad drove us to Issaquah and we all got store-bought shoes.” It was the first time they didn’t have to rely on the Sears catalog. Betty moved into Bayview Retirement Community (located in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood) in August, 2007.
Rose Sanders turns 101 on March 14. She was born in Genesee, Idaho. Rose graduated from the University of Idaho in 1937, where there was one girl for every six boys. She had no trouble getting dates! She met her husband Everett at her first teaching job, where he was principal at her school. They married in 1941, had three sons and a daughter. She also has three grandsons and a granddaughter. Rose stays active at her retirement community. She enjoys going out to eat with her family. She loves music, and also reads and watches TV. Throughout her long lifetime Rose enjoyed taking care of the garden and was very involved in her church. She also liked to travel, especially to the beach. Her favorite beach is Seaside, Oregon and on her 90th birthday her family took her to nearby Cannon Beach. Her secret to a long and healthy life? “Exercise is important.” Rose walks after every meal. She grew up on a farm and still loves being outdoors. Rose’s best advice about living a happy life? “Be active, both physically and mentally. Being happy is a choice,” says Rose. She used to play the piano and also believes that music is an important part of life. She thinks the way technology has grown is the most surprising change in the world over the course of her long life. “I’m still amazed that my grandchildren take pictures from
George Dondero was born on October 13, 1913 in San Francisco. He and his wife Betty raised their son and daughter in Marin County. George is proud grandfather of five and has many great grandchildren including a three-month-old baby boy. George was in natural materials and manufacturing. After retirement he and Betty moved to Sun Valley to ski and be close to family. That’s when George’s new work began. He and his son developed life-saving ski and motorcycle safety innovations. George also created rock climbing equipment, another sport he enjoyed. George has always stayed physically and intellectually active. At age 100 he paints watercolors and is the current Bocce Ball champion at Aljoya Mercer Island retirement community, where he’s lived for five years. George’s secret to a long life is, “Do not be patient. You must make things happen for yourself by taking an active interest in subjects that interest you.” Throughout his life, George skied, hiked, played tennis (“a wonderful game that challenges the body and mind at the same time), and even took up ice dancing! “And I love to sail,” he adds. “Being on a boat is amazing fun and you can do it with people of all ages—the learning never stops.” His best advice for a happy life? “Fall in love with fun! Make people laugh. Help others. Always take an interest in new things…live it up!”
Only six percent of centenarians say they wished they had more money. This is indeed surprising, because most people don’t expect to live to age 100. This fact was among the findings in a survey conducted last spring by the GFK Roper firm for United Healthcare insurance company, their eighth annual [email protected] survey. Having a longer life doesn’t mean having a longer list of regrets either. When asked what these centenarians would have done differently if they knew they would live to 100, 50 percent of centenarians polled answered, “not a thing.” Also polled were baby boomers ages 60-65. They aren't quite as content as average centenarians. Only about 1 in 3 (29 percent) said the same thing about their lives so far, while more than a quarter (26 percent) say they wish they had saved more money. Boomers are also more than twice as likely as centenarians to wish they had taken more risks in their lives (12 percent vs. 5 percent). This year's survey of baby boomers in addition to centenarians was to examine how the attitudes and lifestyles of Americans entering their retirement years compared to those who have held the title of “senior citizen” for 35 years or more. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average American today lives to be about 80. In view of the “additional years” centenarians have lived compared to others in their generation, the most senior of seniors were asked what could have made these extra years of their lives even better. One-third (33 percent) said “nothing.” It's as good as they could have hoped for. The same number (33 percent) wished they had had more time with their spouse or other loved ones. Thirteen percent wished for better health.
Centenarians are most nostalgic about young adulthood (45 percent), despite the challenges many people associate with this time of life, such as balancing the demands of career and family. As they reached their 100th year they said their 100th birthday was the second most fondly remembered time in centenarians' lives (12 percent). “The centenarians in this year's survey show that maintaining a positive outlook isn't all about focusing on what the future holds,” said Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer of United Healthcare Medicare and Retirement. “Reflecting fondly and confidently on the choices they have made throughout their lives helps the longest living Americans maintain a sense of satisfaction and wellbeing that’s vital to healthy aging.” Almost all centenarians (98 percent) say that keeping their mind active is a secret to healthy aging, and 100 percent of 60 to 65-year-olds agree. Nearly the same majority (96 percent of centenarians and 98 percent of baby boomers) say that staying mobile and exercising is important. They also agree that physical health is more difficult to maintain as they age, compared with mental health, emotional/ spiritual health, social connections, and independence. Despite the difficulty of maintaining their physical health, many centenarians are staying active. More than half say they walk or bike weekly. More than one-third say they do strength-training exercises at least once a week One in five centenarians say they do a cardio workout indoors one or more times a week. While nearly all centenarians agree that physical activity is essential to healthy aging, only about one-third say that maintaining one’s sex life is important. Boomers, on the other continued on last column
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In the same article, Agnes, who credits her good health to eating well and getting sleep, said she hopes to keep working for years to come. “As long as I feel well enough I will be here. The children would miss me…”
trips with Faith Callahan, who lived to 106.” Marion has a collection of 165 dolls from her worldwide travels. Marion feels the most impactful change in the world during her lifetime was World War II, which changed so many people’s lives. She was separated from her boyfriend, a conscientious objector, during the war. What change in the world stands out to Marion as making the world a better place? “Advancements in healthcare like the flu vaccine.”
Superagers like Agnes—seniors able to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle to age 100 and beyond—are becoming a very well-studied group and their numbers are growing. Based on census data, approximately 60,000 people in the U.S. are over the age of 100. Centenarians are the fastest Rose Sanders growing segment of our population and the numbers will quadruple in ...continued from page 1 the next 40 years! Surprisingly, Google, the Internet their cell phones!” If she had to choose only one search giant, is getting into the change in the world that made life longevity business. On September better than it was “in the old days,” 18, 2013, Google’s co-founder, Larry Page, wrote “I’m excited to announce it would be when her family got their first freezer. She still remembers when Calico, a new company that will the butcher shop got its first freezer focus on health and well-being, in particular the challenge of aging and and customers were able to use it. Rose moved into Kirkland’s associated diseases. Madison House retirement “Illness and aging affect all our community in August of 2013. families. With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can George Dondero improve millions of lives.” ...continued from page 1 And it seems that each month we An avid photographer, he took hear another tantalizing new study a photo of a friend’s daughter—that promising the fountain of youth. young lady became the actress Janet National Geographic’s May 2013 Leigh, her first break helped in part cover shows an adorable tyke with because of his photo. For George, a headline that boldly states, This one of the best changes in the world Baby Will Live to be 120. The article is the advancement of electronics in discusses longevity studies based photography. “Color film was once on genetic technologies, molecular very expensive. I would wait hours research, and data on long-lived just to get the perfect shot and then populations around the world. One hope it would turn out. Now, you interesting fact from the article: the take 20 pictures to get one perfect genetic component of longevity one. I think it’s just amazing.” seems stronger in men and yet more women are likely to live to 100. The conclusion is that women take better Living to 100 advantage of external factors such as ...continued from above diet, medical care, and other lifestyle choices than do most men. hand, think differently. Four in five Dr. Nir Barzilai, director of the baby boomers (80 percent) agree that Institute for Aging Research at Albert maintaining one’s sex life is important for Einstein College of Medicine, is healthy aging. quoted in the article. He is optimistic Centenarians are more likely than about new understandings of human boomers to eat nutritiously balanced aging. Many researchers are now meals regularly (84 percent vs. 77 searching for genes that protect percent), get more than eight hours sleep against diseases associated with aging and attend a social event every day. rather than searching for the genes The generational differences that cause the diseases. This new continue when it comes to certain approach is the key, says Dr. Barzilai. aspects of emotional health. Retirement Despite all the focus on the age boomers were more likely than genetics of longevity, in the end, the centenarians to say it’s very important to article concludes, genes only account continue to look toward each day and to for about 25 percent of whether a maintain a sense of purpose (79 percent person will live past 100 or not. vs. 57 percent). Research studies and high-tech The secrets of a lasting marriage solutions looking for the answers depend on whom you ask. Centenarians to a long life will likely continue to put a greater premium on “sameness” tantalize us; but most experts agree than do the boomers. Boomers are more that achieving longevity comes from apt to toss aside tradition when it comes a complex mix of genes as well as to marriage. lifestyle choices such as eating well, Both generations agree that family staying mentally and physically and friends have the biggest impact on active, and maintaining connections their lives and provide the most support. with friends and family. With, More than one in three centenarians perhaps, a little luck thrown in for report maintaining a friendship for more good measure. ❖ than 75 years. ❖