The 1929 stock market crash, the Great Depression, World War II—not many Americans have lived through all of those events and are still here to tell the tale. But 12 women who were honored for turning 100 or older at the Annual Centenarian Celebration Tea Party at the Pines of Sarasota Rehabilitation & Senior Care Community, were. The ladies ranged in age from 99 to 104, and there were six returning from last year’s celebration.
This is the seventh year in a row that the Pines has hosted the party, inviting friends and family and notable members of the community to join in. Attendees sipped tea and munched on finger sandwiches as they were serenaded by the small voices of the children attending the daycare at Pines, as well as Caring Voices, a group that sings to the residents every week.
Marie Brandstatter, the youngest woman of the group, turns 100 on Dec. 21. She loves to knit and uses her laptop to email her friends and family, and to check her Facebook notifications. “I don’t have an ache or a pain!” says Brandstatter, who still rocks a purple and black Timex Ironman Triathlon watch. She's originally from Massachusetts, where she met her husband while working in Christian literature at a church. She then worked at Fuller Memorial Hospital in Attleboro, Massachusetts, until relocating to Florida.
Brandstatter says the secret to longevity is putting her life in God’s hands. “I am thankful, and I put God first," she says. "When I wake up in the morning, I thank God for another breath of life, another day, and I ask him, ‘Tell me what I should do today.’”
Pines CEO John Overton says that staying active has played a large role in the longevity of the women. Many of them owned their own businesses and kept busy throughout their lives.
“All of them were very active during their earlier years and I think that’s one of the key secrets to why they are here today and why we’re here honoring them,” Overton says.
Overton says most of the women remain lively, and they often partake in bus trips to go shopping or out to lunch. Pines also has a day care with 52 children ranging in age from infants to 5-year-olds, and the seniors can interact with them daily.
During the celebration, the honored ladies were surrounded by family, friends, food, birthday cake and decorations, but there seemed to be one major thing missing—men. Over the past seven years of celebrations at Pine, there has only been one man honored for reaching 100 years old. This trend at Pines goes hand-in-hand with the national average of life expectancy. According to data collected by the Center for Disease Control in 2o14, women have an average life expectancy of 81.3 years, and men have an average life expectancy of 76.5 years.
Althea Paterson says being 100 feels the same as being 80. “I put my health first," she says. "I never smoked a cigarette, I hardly ever drank, and I give all the credit to that."
Paterson turned 100 in May. She is originally from Kingston, Pennsylvania, where she studied homeopathic medicine and practiced private nursing. Her favorite activity at Pines? Bingo.
All of the women received a personalized Smucker's jam jar with their picture emblazoned on the front, complements of the Today Show. The women will also be featured on the Today Show sometime this week in its 100th birthday celebrations shout-outs.