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Centenarians Birthday Party of a Century (and more)

  • Published: 2010-10-14 : Author: Selfhelp Community Services, Inc.
  • Synopsis: Centenarians including some who are 107 and 109 celebrate a unique birthday party in their honor.

Main Document

Selfhelp Community Services Salutes New York's Centenarians.

Centenarians, including some who are 107 and 109, celebrated a unique birthday party in their honor on Wednesday, Oct. 13 at Selfhelp's Benjamin Rosenthal Senior Center, 45-25 Kissena Boulevard, Flushing, NY.

The party (from 10 am to noon), hosted by Selfhelp Community Services, Inc., acknowledges the 58 centenarians, including 24 Holocaust survivors, who receive housing, home health care and social services from Selfhelp. Family members and friends of the centenarians join the celebration.

The centenarians play a major role in the festivities by showcasing a centenarians' art display, a poetry reading and music performance, and sharing candid advice about their secrets to a full life.

Keeping active and having a loving family and friends is a recurring theme of the centenarians.

Steve Pulwars, a Holocaust survivor, age 100, says he gets endless joy from a son and daughter, two grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and his wife, who is a "super lady." He says even though he does not have a lot of money, "I am rich because I have a family." One of his rules of living a good life is not to take too much. Take only what you need, he says. Selfhelp is helping him with his memoirs about his years in a forced labor camp in Kazakhstan, the loss of more than 20 family members, his journey to freedom and the rebuilding of his life in America.

Elizabeth Angelo, age 102, says her interests today include horse-racing and armchair coaching the New York Mets. She explains that sometimes you don't realize the importance of family till you experience a loss or near loss. She was referring to a life-threatening incident that involved her great grandson and the family's pet golden retriever, which is credited with saving the baby's life. Friendly and down-to-earth, Elizabeth says if she had her druthers and could spend a day with anyone in the world, it would likely be ... Perry Como, Engelbert Humperdinck or Tom Jones. She says her best advice is, "I don't give advice." When pressed she advises, "Most people don't realize it but they will be much happier if they are nice and don't try to make a career out of bickering or fighting." Looking decades younger than 100, she laughs and says no one can make her do anything she doesn't want to.

Adele Lerner, age 103, has an unquenchable desire to learn new things. She graduated from college with a degree in fine arts when she was 83. She is an artist, whose water colors and oil paintings are in great demand. When she was 90, Adele received a computer from one of her daughters. It is now an important part of her life. As one of the first participants of the Virtual Senior Center, Adele Skypes with her daughter in California, participates in armchair yoga and enjoys current event classes transmitted from Selfhelp's senior center. She also enjoys religious services streamed on line from her synagogue. She says one of the keys to living a full life is understanding that "It's never too late to learn something new."

The festivities include fifth graders from P.S. 24 in Flushing, Queens, singing Happy Birthday while holding celebratory balloons, which they give to the centenarians. The school children's performance is part of Selfhelp's Intergenerational Learning Initiative which aims to close the gap between generations by fostering respect and understanding among all ages.

Elected New York City officials also participate in the event.

"We consider it a privilege to host this birthday party," said Stuart C. Kaplan, CEO of Self-help. "This party wouldn't be the same without the active participation of our centenarians. Their vitality and eagerness to share their experiences and lessons of life, is an inspiration to all of us and can be used as a model for people of all ages. All of us at Selfhelp have learned from them and will continue to learn from them in the future."

The gala includes a non-traditional birthday cake cutting ceremony; non-traditional because it honors people who are 100 years of age or more -

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