Thriving at 102 Thanks to Senior Health Program
When Sylvia Aftel was born, the American flag had only 46 stars. It was 1910, two years before the Titanic’s fateful voyage, when most U.S. homes did not have telephones and a gallon of milk set you back 32 cents. Now at 102 years old, Aftel is a regular at Mills-Peninsula’s Senior Focus adult day health program, which she’s been attending since March of 2010. Aftel is still mentally sharp and in excellent health. She lives in her own home, with help from a caretaker, on a quiet cul-de-sac in San Mateo. She is proud of her independence, but says the brightest days in her week are the three she spends at Senior Focus.
“The best part of coming here is meeting people – everyone is very friendly here,” she says. “At home, I’m alone with the telephone – people call wanting to know if I plan to sell my house or buy new windows.”
Recent research suggests that regular socializing is a vital component of health for older adults. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that social isolation can shorten the lives of seniors. The adult day health program at Senior Focus provides group activities – such as painting, light exercise and listening to music – physical and occupational therapies and medical care from registered nurses.
“I’m happy and lucky I still have my good health,” Aftel says
In addition to socializing at Senior Focus, Aftel says she enjoys the daily exercises led by Senior Focus staff and the music, sometimes with live performances.
“Coming here to Senior Focus has been a very good thing for me,” she says. “I look forward to getting out of the house.”
Aftel has outlived her children, sister, two brothers and husband of 66 years. She worries about being a burden to her granddaughter, so she tries not to ask for too much, she says. Her granddaughter and two great grandchildren live one block away. Close enough that when her grandson-in-law cooks up an especially delicious meal, he sends a plate over to Aftel’s house, free delivery courtesy of the great grandkids.
She’s proud of the volunteer work she did throughout her life, working in stateside support of U.S. army soldiers in her younger years and later spending 20 years as a volunteer at a hospital in Denver.
To mark the special occasion of her 102nd birthday last December, the Senior Focus team threw a big birthday bash, complete with a visit from an Elvis impersonator. Framed pictures of Aftel and “the King,” kicking back against his pink Cadillac, hang on the walls of Senior Focus.
“It was the best party we’ve ever had,” Aftel says. “Everyone had a great time.”
As Aftel shows no signs of slowing down, it might be time to start planning an even bigger bash to celebrate 103.