This week, the Chapin Home for the Aging will have more than a dozen residents who are a century or more old. And to celebrate the occasion the administrators are going to hold a birthday for all of them on Wednesday.
“In all my years of working at nursing homes I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Kathleen Ferrara, the recreational director of Chapin Home. “They’re so unique and such a special group.”
The Jamaica nursing home, which started out as a women’s home in the 19th and much of the 20th century, can hold up to 220 elders. On Tuesday, one of the residents turns 100, giving the nursing home 13 residents who are at least 100. Many of them have some degree of dementia, according to Ferrara, but for the most part they are very lucid for people who have lived for so long.
Ferrara is in charge of making sure that the residents stay active and keep busy with carious recreational activities. The group of centennials occupy themselves in a variety of ways from playing bingo to playing bowling on the Wii.
Mildred Gent is the oldest of the centennial cohort and in October she will be 107. Gent’s lived in the nursing home since 2010 and lived in Greenwich Village where she worked as a clerk during the 1920s and 30s and into WWII.
Gent doesn’t pay much attention to the modern world and when asked about the Internet she said, “It’s a lot of bunk,” using a term that is as old as she is.
The youngest to join the group of ultra-elders is Mary Nuccio, who turns 100 on June 24. Born in 1914, Nuccio has witnessed three generations of her family develop. Her great-grandchild starts college in the fall.
“This is pretty rare in my family,” she said about her age. “I’m going to be 100. Everything is broken but not my mind.”
During WWII, Nuccio and her husband James, who is now deceased, left their Astoria home to live in the Nebraskan city of Omaha, where James served as an MP at an Italian prison war camp.
In her spare time, Nuccio likes to play bowling on the Wii. Her bowling partner and fellow resident Carol Martin complained that Nuccio is very good at the game.
“I’m very determined,” Nuccio, who is around 5 feet, said. “I don’t like to be dependent on anybody. I’m very independent.”
As Nuccio played on a game console that is less than a decade old, resident Jimmy Key sat outside enjoying the warm weather.
In a very heavy southern accent—reminiscent of blues singers like Lead Belly—that Ferrara said most people can’t understand, he said he was from Nashville, Tenn.
“I’m country boy,” Key said. “I’m over 100 years old. I’m so old, I don’t remember how old I am.”