Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How to Live to 100 {or, what keeps my 100 year old great grandmother going}


My great grandmother turned 100 on the 7th. She is a living, walking miracle. Vibrant in her personality, style of dress, and expressions, no one who meets her forgets Irene.

We flew into Oregon to celebrate her big day, along with countless other friends and relatives. After two weeks of watching her in action, I've made several observations about her way of life and what {I think} has helped her to keep moving forward. While living to 100 is no personal goal of mine, I've learned a lot about living life to the fullest from Grandma Irene.

Have a routine. I already knew that I functioned better when my life follows a predictable order, but Grandma Irene takes it to an entirely different level. Every morning she has some sort of activity to attend- whether it is an exercise class, church function, or social event. After a simple lunch, my grandmother drops in for a visit to give Irene her meds, make her soup, and help out around the apartment {yes, this 100 year old lady still lives alone in her own apartment- miracle, remember???}.

If grandma is late, great grandma is a tad upset about the change in her schedule. Because after their walk together around the block to pick up her mail and greet neighbors, she takes a two hour nap, then goes with her best friend Florence to visit their friend Billy at 4:30, on the dot. Then there is a light soup dinner, Jeopardy at 7, and bed. Every day. Having structure forces her to get up and be productive. She still does word searches and crochets {albeit, not as prolifically as she used to}. And she is flourishing on this schedule.


Dress up. Everyday Irene dons a skirt, with matching hats and socks. She has two closets- one for her clothes, the other for accessories! Most of her hats were hand crocheted over the years {and each of her descendants has a closet full of these handmade treasures- the woman was a crocheting machine}. She's also crocheted wrist bands to wear under her watch, in a rainbow of colors to coordinate with her outfits. If you're going to get up and face the day, dress for the occasion. Most importantly, wear lots of color! You'll make yourself {and everyone else} feel a little happier for it.

Love well. My own mom said it best- "My grandmother makes me feel more loved than anyone else I know." I watched her for hours at her grand birthday celebration. As people came up to greet and congratulate her, she hugged each one, looked them in the eye as she smiled and told them she loved them, then gave a warm kiss. She did the same for me at least three times that day. And while she may not recognize each of us, or remember who was there now that its over, she still makes everyone she meets feel so loved, welcome, and special. In placing her priority on loving others, I know that she has increased her longevity. No one wants to see her go. Everyone she meets is a friend.

Choose joy. My great grandmother has not had an easy life. She lost her father at age 10 and was sent to an orphanage because her mother couldn't support her 6 children. She worked hard from age 18 on, lost her first baby in a painful and complicated breech home delivery, was forced to flee an abusive husband, raised four children on her own, watched her siblings {all younger} die one by one, and on it goes. Yet I've never once heard her complain, and never seen her without a smile on her face. If Irene, can choose joy, so can I.


In God's sovereignty, my great grandmother has lived 100 full years. Who knows how many more she has to go. However long the span, she's living it well with the aid of her routine, dressing up, loving well, and choosing joy. May God give us grace to do the same!

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