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Courageous Aging

Meet Louisa Whitten.

Sister, mother, mother-in-law, cousin, grandmother, great grandmother, and friend. Louisa Whitten is my grandma… and on July 5 we celebrated her 100th birthday.

Yesterday (August 22) was National Senior Citizen’s Day – a day to recognize and appreciate the value and contribution of elderly people.

My grandma….

  • Graduated from her small high school and immediately started a job in New York City.
  • Continued to work, even after getting married and having a daughter.
  • Chased my older brother and me around the house when we misbehaved.
  • Took me to church each Sunday and allowed me to rest my head on the fur collar of her coat through the service.
  • Exposed me to her love of art and never pointed out that I was not nearly as talented as she was.
  • Encouraged me to enjoy making music.
  • Shared her love of Entenmann’s baked goods with me, especially the Banana Crunch Cake that now is only available in limited stores.
  • Literally washed my mouth out with soap once when I talked back.
  • Desired nothing more than to ensure her daughter, grandkids, and future generations had a home.
  • Can still sit at a piano and, from memory, play beautiful music.
  • Won a blue, 1st place ribbon for her painting at the Grange Fair three years ago.
  • Is sarcastic and sweet all at the same time.
  • Can’t understand why any doctor thinks she should take vitamins at the age of 100 when she never took them before.
  • Does not accept that mass produced food should be excused from tasting good because “it just isn’t hard to give food a good flavor.”
  • Loves to have a cookie or two in the middle of the night because there are too many hours between dinner and breakfast.

At her birthday party on July 5th, in the room of almost 100 well-wishers, Grandma was asked to give a speech. After a slightly extended pause (during which I wondered if she maybe had not heard the request for a speech) she smiled and said, “Happy Birthday to me.”

Grandma is just one of the many women in my life who have encouraged me to reach further, work harder, and not let anything stand in my way. She has lived her life with grace and courage… and at 100 years is aging the same way – courageously.

I value her trailblazing, her legacy, her laughter, her love of desserts, and her gentle hand on my cheek when she tells me she loves me and I should visit more often. I’m not sure one National Senior Citizen’s Day a year is enough.

My challenge to you…. Go forth and value and recognize the courage of our senior citizens and then live your life as courageously as they.

Ifeoma Aduba, AWP Director of Public Advocacy

Courage: A Woman’s Place acts bravely and boldly, notwithstanding fear.*

*excerpt from the Values Statement of A Woman’s Place

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