Living

Three local women share wisdom from 100 years of life

Wash your face regularly.

It’s a simple answer to the question I ask my interview subjects: After 100 years of life, how do you manage to look so young?

At first, I think they must be hiding something.

I’m convinced the secret to longevity must be more complex than a task so basic that it’s often overlooked in our daily routines.

Then again, it’s probably best not to question this local trio’s knowledge of the Fountain of Youth.

Bernice Gay, 100, is a retired Army nurse who married for the first time at 75.

Georgia Belle Shannon, 100, is a retired teacher who entered the apparent “100 club” with a recent birthday.

Janie Dozier, 101, is a retired teacher and minister’s wife who says her hair has avoided shades of grey and white on its own.

The women sat beside each other during their recent interview at Covenant Woods, a Columbus retirement community.

While talking near a video camera, the women dismissed our joke about becoming potential YouTube sensations.

“We don’t care about being famous,” one of them said.

That’s not to say they don’t appreciate the uniqueness of reaching 100.

They have each other, but they don’t know too many other people who have reached their age.

“I’m proud of how old I am,” Gay said.

Collectively, the three women have so many memories that it was hard to narrow our conversation to just a few decades’ worth of stories.

We spent some time on World War II, a topic that made Gay discuss her military service.

The other women remembered a shaky national economy that made them cut back on standard household supplies.

We also covered the opposite end of the spectrum: computers.

After 100 years alive, is there a desire to become technologically savvy?

“I don’t care to,” Shannon said. After all, those responsibilities are for pre-retirement life, she suggested.

Though distant from the Facebook and Twitter era, the women are far from lazy.

They participate in activities like bingo at Covenant Woods and say life in a retirement community hasn’t dampened their self-reliance.

“I feel more independent,” Shannon said.

Then, of course, there’s that pesky question you can’t avoid asking anybody who’s healthy and happy at 100 and beyond.

What’s your secret?

“I give the credit to exercise,” Dozier said. It was the group’s immediate consensus. Gay agreed, and with honest smile said, “I sleep a lot.”

The women know they’ve lived through decades of social and political changes.

Still, they said life moves quickly — even when you think it doesn’t.

“Time is going so fast,” Shannon said.

The memories span so many years that she sometimes can’t attach precise dates or ages to the stories she tells.

Her life advice comes quickly and easily, however.

“Make other people happy and then you are happy,” she said.

My thoughts returned to the face-washing wisdom.

Maybe there really isn’t a complex, vault-stored secret to thriving amid the passage of time.

Maybe the only secret is to not let a belief in a secret prevent you from living.

Our interview’s lesson wasn’t rooted in a specific date or memory, but rather a broader sentiment strong enough to transcend the limits of age:

Yes, maybe it really is that simple.

Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at ssorich@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8516.

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