When the American Association of Retired Persons released a study that said most adults didn't want to live to age 100, nobody asked the swinging centenarians at the Evelyn Cole Senior Center for their opinion.
The study's authors should have dropped by Friday for a big party in honor of Prince George's County residents who are 100 years of age or older. Before the bash ended, the honorees were gobbling down cake, singing solos and fending off prospective dates.
It didn't matter that William Coates was 110. He still is a player, dressed in a purple shirt and silver tie and attracting a number of ladies, including Del. Joanne C. Benson (D-Landover) and Prince George's County Council Vice Chairman Dorothy F. Bailey (D-Temple Hills).
"I'm married," yelled Coates, who was one of 33 people honored at the county's Celebration of Centenarians, sponsored by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the Department of Parks and Recreation and Prince George's County.
Irving Smith, director of the Evelyn Cole Senior Center, said this was the second year the county decided to honor its oldest residents. He said the enthusiasm of these seniors should give pause to those 63 percent of 2,032 adults age 18 and older who said they didn't want to live to be 100. "I want people to see that if you make it to 100, you can still function, and if you are just turning 65, you don't have any excuses," said Smith, who keeps seniors busy at his center with a range of activities and programs.
Smith said that with exercise and nutrition, there is no reason why people shouldn't be able to live long. About 20 percent of the seniors honored still live at home and take little medication.
"I just think it's wonderful to live so long. I thank God for it," said Anna Bracken, 101, who is quite an active resident of the Livingston Health Care Center in Fort Washington. "I play bingo. We sing and have exercise class."
Bracken, a former elementary school teacher, remembers her father telling her about the day he was sold as a slave. But what she talked of most was the violence in schools today. "They need prayer back in the schools," she said.
Azalea Garretson, another resident at Livingston, also keeps up with the news. But during the luncheon, Mary Daley took things a step further when she scolded Washington Post photographer Mark Gail for crawling on the floor to take pictures. "What are you doing crawling on the floor? Can't you walk?" she asked Gail as he moved between tables of seniors who dined on baked chicken, rice and vegetables. Although more than 100 seniors attended the event, only six centenarians were present. And the size of the crowd didn't stop Effie Elam, 102, from stealing the microphone and singing a solo. "I feel like I am beautiful; I wonder why," said Elam, who showed off an attractive photo of how she looked 80 years ago.
CAPTION: Mary Daley, 102, enjoyed the celebration for centenarians last week at the Evelyn Cole Senior Center.
CAPTION: Effie Elam, 102, talks to council Vice Chairman Dorothy F. Bailey. Elam brought a photo of how she looked 80 years ago.