Witnessing the wisdom of age
By Barry Schrader, pretty-old columnist, Daily Chronicle, March 2, 2018
Gathered for a group photo at their party last Sunday are from left seated Mary Smith, Gladys Simon and Mary Maxson. Standing are Don Mosher, left, and Cliff Johnson. (Barry Schrader photo for ShawMedia)
The number 714 doesn’t hold any special meaning unless you know seven people, all of them older than 100, whose combined ages add up to that number.
It has been my privilege to photograph the many centenarians over the years at the Oak Crest DeKalb Area Retirement Center, and I always get a smile from them.
Each year, a reception is held to honor them, and this year it was Sunday. I am often amazed at the alertness and pleasantness of many who have passed the century mark, considering how much history they have behind them and the memories of so many distressing world events, and even heartbreaks. They all have one sad memory in common: The loss of a loved one or entire families of their generation. But they don’t dwell on it and live each day as it comes.
Along with their portraits on the corridor wall leading to the health center is a quote from each one. I like their optimism and want to share a few.
Mary Maxson, 104, said, “Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘Most people are as happy as they make up their mind to be.’ ” Mary Smith, 101, had this quote: “My attitude about aging is take it one day at a time.” Gladys Simon, 103, offered this: “It’s not how old you are, but how you are old.”
Two of the centenarians could not attend because of health reasons: Donna Marsh, who is 102, and Dorothy Doughty, who was included among the honorees although she is only 99. She turns 100 in September.
After the party, I had a chance to chat with Cliff Johnson, whose quote on the wall is “Yesterday is past; let’s plan for tomorrow.” His attitude remains upbeat despite the fact that this past year he has gone through a bout with the flu, then pneumonia and more recently a broken foot, he told me. For 28 years of his career, he was with an investment firm doing retirement planning. Asked whether he has any advice for the young people starting out, he offered this: “Put something away. If you don’t do it religiously beginning at a very young age, you can’t retire comfortably.” I know a lot of people who, in retrospect, wish they had done just that, but waited too late to start.
I particularly enjoyed the quote from Don Mosher, 101, who quipped: “Why complain about being over the hill? I’d rather be over it than under it.” He is one of the longest Oak Crest residents, just passing his 29th year there.
The songs chosen to sing for the occasion were quite fitting for seniors. Among the titles: “When You’re Smiling,” “Accentuate the Positive,” “Every Morning Every Evening,” and a hit from 1968, “They Tried to Tell Us We’re Too Young.” The seven being feted that day were only about 50 (the new 30) around that time and probably would like to change the wording to “They try to tell us we’re too old … .”