How can you live to the ripe old age of 101?
Well, if you follow the example of Sarah Alexander, a resident of Wexford House in Denver, you should eat chocolate, avoid green vegetables, drink wine and stay away from the gym.
â€œMy mother does not believe in exercise,â€ said Richard Alexander, her 79-year-old son.
Sarah, who turned 101 Thanksgiving Day, has a simple explanation for her longevity.
â€œItâ€™s no secret,â€ she said. â€œItâ€™s Godâ€™s will.â€
Born in Russia in 1904, sheâ€™s seen a great deal over the years. That said, she describes her life as simple and ordinary. She has no regrets and few complaints.
She has noticed, however, that most people donâ€™t share her disposition.
â€œPeople expect more out of life nowadays,â€ she said.
Russian immigrants, she and her family moved to New York City when she was 5-years old.
She spent her young life moving between the city, Long Island and Brooklyn.
â€œIt was just a childhood,â€ she said. â€œWe went to school and played and we bothered our parents.â€
In 1925 she married the brother of her best friend, who happened to be her next door neighbor.
â€œWe just took it for granted,â€ she said. â€œWe just grew together.â€
That marriage lasted over 60 years until her husband died of cancer at the age of 88.
Just like living to 101, Sarah doesnâ€™t see her long marriage as anything exceptional. Nothing secret kept it together, it was simply understood to be a â€œlife sentence.â€
â€œYou get married, and youâ€™re supposed to be together,â€ she said. â€œItâ€™s not like it is now.â€
There were things that helped. The couple thought alike and if they argued, they came to an agreement eventually.
They had two children, both boys. Richard, the eldest, grew up to be a high school principal and a professor. His younger brother, Bobby, worked as a chemist for the New York City Police Department.
Richard remembers his mother running a strict household and his father reciting poetry at the dinner table. Swear words were forbidden and good behavior became innate.
This proved problematic when he entered the army at the age of 18. Every other word his fellow soldiers said had four letters.
â€œI was the only one who couldnâ€™t curse,â€ Richard said.
When it came to his childhood, Richard remembers life being a bit harsher than his mother does.
The Great Depression is a perfect example.
â€œWe didnâ€™t mind too much,â€ Sarah said.
Richard has a different opinion.
â€œPeople had nothing,â€ he said. â€œIt was so poor it was ridiculous.â€
Sarah has grown older with the same optimism she had when facing other life obstacles.
â€œMy mother is one of the bravest, most courageous people I know,â€ Richard said. â€œSheâ€™s had to face all this aging by herself and she doesnâ€™t seem to complain a lot.â€
While her youngest son died in his 50s, Richard remains devoted to his mother. He and his wife moved to Denver in the 1980s and 12 years ago Sarah did the same.
Up until this past June, she lived self-sufficiently in her own apartment, always telling her son â€œnoâ€ when he suggested assisted living.
Finally she decided she could no longer manage on her own, much to the surprise of her son.
â€œI was shocked,â€ he said. â€œI really was.â€
Now comfortable at the Wexford House, Sarah celebrated her birthday in style â€” complete with cake, balloons and visiting politicians.
She lives a quiet life and looks forward to the daily visits she receives from her son. Richard believes his mother has aged with exceptional grace.
â€œI hope I can do the same,â€ he said.
by Sarah Grano