TAMPA — They’ve witnessed a whole lot — the first man to land on the moon, the invention of television, the polio vaccine, the computer and the Internet — happenings that have revolutionized the world around them.
They are the 10 residents of John Knox Village who recently celebrated their 99th through 106th birthdays.
Their mega milestones were indeed cause for celebration in the minds of administrators and staff at the continuing care retirement community, a facility of the BayCare Health System.
In a private dining room reserved for special occasions, the group of mainly centenarians were recently treated to a formal luncheon in their honor, complete with arrangements of red roses artfully positioned on a decorative table runner atop a white linen tablecloth and matching napkins, and place settings of the best china in the house.
Bunches of helium-filled red balloons also were strategically placed throughout the dining area, and on an adjacent table was a large birthday cake with three candles that spelled out 100 and the word “Celebration” scrolled on it.
Before being served their four-course meals each person was asked to share the secrets of his or her longevity.
“Just do what you can do when you can do it,” said 100-year-old Vivian Anderson, who noted she’s outlived her two siblings who died in their 50s, and her husband, to whom she was married for 66 years.
Centenarian Wenona Marbourg said the key to a long life is to simply “do what your mother tells you,” she said.
“Don’t smoke,” said Caesar Snyder, who celebrated his 100th birthday Tuesday.
When married couple Aaron and Ruth Girson, 99 and 93 years old respectively, were asked what the key is to their many years of existence, Ruth replied, “I don’t know, but it’s nice to be alive.”
Helen Fuqua, 101, who many at John Knox Village have dubbed “Miss America” because of her attractive and youthful appearance, evoked a roomful of laughter to the response she gave when she, too, was asked to reveal her secret to a long life.
“I know there’s a secret to being 101, but I don’t know what it is,” she quipped.
Brad Graham, director of John Knox’s medical center for residents on the campus who need more extensive care than those living in independent and assisted-care residences, said in his 10 years in the field of health care he’s seen a considerable rise in people’s life spans.
“It seems like we’re celebrating 100-year birthdays more frequently, and I think that’s because we’ve had a lot of wonderful advances in medicine,” said Graham, who took part in the birthday celebration.
John Knox’s assisted living administrator Michele Capurso said from what she’s read, the average life span in the United States in recent years has risen from 82 to 89 years.
“I think it’s fantastic that we can care for our seniors in a facility such as this and that we honor their longevity with occasions like this,” she said.
Donna Washbern, director of nursing in the medical care center, was also seated among the honorees at the luncheon.
“When they get to a certain point, they rely on you,” she said. “We are their family and these people are precious.”
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]