Sharon Towers continuing-care retirement community in SouthPark recently celebrated eight remarkable residents who are centenarians – people 100 years old or older.
The residents, all women, range from 100 to 111. They are Rete Cail, Katharine MacNeill, Frances McLaughlin, Florence Moore, Elizabeth Stone, Virginia Whisnant, Inez White and Elizabeth Will.
Will, 111, is the oldest, and soon will turn 112. All but two were able to attend the afternoon party Sept. 21.
As music played, the honorees, their guests and other residents gathered for frosted marble cake, punch and other treats served on white tablecloths with centerpieces of miniature roses.
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Each centenarian wore a corsage of ivory-colored roses and received a certificate of recognition.
Cail, 106, has lived at the retirement community for 15 years. She was born in 1905. Rete’s son, Jim, 86, and his wife, Marilyn, attended the party with her.
Jim Cail described his mother as a “Southern matriarch” who once was president of her woman’s club. She was a fashion enthusiast in her day and loved to shop for clothes, Marilyn said.
SouthPark mall was one of her favorite places to shop. A display board outside the room showcased men’s and women’s changing styles of dress during the years.
Susan Alexander, who lives at Sharon Towers, sat next to the Cail family. She said Rete participated in exercise classes in a wheelchair and hasn’t lost her interest in people. “I always admired that she was so adept at life,” Alexander said.
Elizabeth Byrd is a licensed recreational therapist and director of health care and assisted living recreation services who works closely with the centenarians and organized the party.
“We just like to acknowledge all the life events, points of history that they’ve seen and experienced and lived with, because we feel like all the elderly have so much information and treasures that they can share,” Byrd said.
The party preceded National Centenarians Day, which was the day after. Byrd became aware of the holiday last year, she said. Last year, some of the centenarians still were in independent living arrangements at Sharon Towers; now each has transitioned to health care and assisted living.
A strong work ethic, sense of morality and appreciation for life are characteristics the centenarians seem to share, Byrd said.
In 2010, there were 1,404 centenarians North Carolina, according to a 2011 report from the N.C. Division of Aging and Adult Services. Most were in metropolitan areas, including Mecklenburg, Wake and Guilford counties.
Virginia Whisnant, a centenarian who has lived in Charlotte since 1929, said she doesn’t attribute her longevity to anything in particular. “I just try to live a normal life,” Whisnant said.