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Comments & Curiosities: Whether 105 or 114, 'You go, girl!'

February 05, 2011|By Peter Buffa

Are you 100 years old? I'm not.

Alyce Hall, Newport Beach's most senior of senior citizens is, though. She's all of that and more.

Alyce, who lives at the Newport Beach Plaza retirement community, turned 105 last week. Not only did she look marvelous at her birthday party, but Alyce was totally hip and happening in a sparkling tiara and a bright red feather boa.

Gerontologists — people who think deep thoughts about people who look like me and try to figure out why things didn't go better — have been studying what they call the "old old" for a long time. The definition is a little vague, but it generally means folks who have pulled up beside 85 and now have it in their rear-view mirror.

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But the group that fascinates me even more is centenarians, the 100-plus crowd, and especially the "super centenarians" — people who are 110 years and older, a group that Alyce Hall is closing in on fast. It's hard to wrap your head around that, no? How many 60-year-olds could imagine living another 50 years? And what about the folks who are beyond 110 and still haven't checked out of the grand hotel called life?

Do you remember Eunice G. Sanborn? I do. I told you about her last year when she was awarded the title of the oldest living person in the whole wide world at the jaw-dropping age of 114. Eunice died Monday at her home in Jacksonville, Texas.

You'll notice I didn't say "sadly" or "unfortunately."

When someone who is 114 gets the Big Text Message From the Sky, there's not much to say other than "You go, girl!" Just think about that — Eunice Sanborn was born in 1896, four years before the 20th century began, and she died last week. Incredible.

I also have very little to tell you about exactly how to live to be 114. Then again, nor does anyone else. Gerontologists have studied it to death — maybe we should use another expression — and clarity is hard to find when it comes to how and why people live to very old age.

But all this talk about how old is old depends on who's asking the question and when. If you take a look at "old" through the Way Back Machine, there are more than a few surprises.

In the Bronze Age, life expectancy was about 35 years. Talk about early retirement. If you made it to 35 you got a bronze watch, a new club and a plaque. Granted, there were a lot of things trying to eat you back then, but that is still awfully young to be old.

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