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These volunteers in Oklahoma make certain individuals turning 100 are celebrated : NPR

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These volunteers in Oklahoma make certain individuals turning 100 are celebrated : NPR

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Paula Naylor pushes her father, Paul Romanello, along with his wheelchair on Dec. 21 in Tulsa, Okla. Romanello was just lately celebrated by the Centenarians of Oklahoma when he turned 100 years outdated.

Michael Noble Jr. for NPR


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Michael Noble Jr. for NPR


Paula Naylor pushes her father, Paul Romanello, along with his wheelchair on Dec. 21 in Tulsa, Okla. Romanello was just lately celebrated by the Centenarians of Oklahoma when he turned 100 years outdated.

Michael Noble Jr. for NPR

Gloria Helmuth has seen the enjoyment of what it means to show 100. She’s not there herself — she’s 82 — however over time, she’s helped pay tribute to lots of of centenarians. And that has given her distinctive perception into what it means to truly stay to 100.

There are the apparent well being challenges, for one. And a whole lot of the time, it may be downright lonely. Family members — like spouses, associates, even youngsters — could have handed years, and typically a long time, earlier than an individual crosses the century mark.

“I simply really feel that it is essential that they know that any person does care about them,” Helmuth says. “And that is the explanation for our existence.”

Helmuth is the director of an all-volunteer group known as the Centenarians of Oklahoma. Their mission is straightforward: to honor anybody within the state who’s 100 years of age or older.

Gloria Helmuth (left) and Sue Scott from the Centenarians of Oklahoma pose for a portrait on Dec. 21 of their Tulsa workplace. Since its founding in 1991, the group says it has honored greater than 2,700 centenarians and counting.

Michael Noble Jr. for NPR


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Michael Noble Jr. for NPR

The U.S. has extra centenarians total than every other nation, and because of medical advances and adjustments in life-style, it is a rising inhabitants. There are about 90,000 centenarians residing within the U.S. at present, in line with the Census Bureau, practically thrice as many as there have been some 40 years in the past. In one other 40 years, that quantity may swell to just about 600,000.

In Oklahoma, there are regarded as about 500 people who find themselves 100 or older, in line with the Centenarians of Oklahoma. Since its founding in 1991, the group says it has honored greater than 2,700 and counting.

“We journey all around the state,” says Sue Scott, board chair for the group and one of many volunteers who conducts its tribute ceremonies. “Our oldest particular person simply handed away final yr … she was 112.”

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Two others are set to change into supercentenarians within the subsequent yr — 110 years outdated. “They’ve some tales to inform,” says Scott.

Gloria Helmuth shows an instance of the plaque that the group presents to those that are 100 or older. In Oklahoma, there are regarded as about 500 individuals alive at present who’re 100 or older.

Michael Noble Jr. for NPR


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Michael Noble Jr. for NPR

Honoring the state’s “Golden Oakies”

A typical tribute ceremony incorporates a quick biographical sketch of every new centenarian, together with some trivia the group has collected after greater than 30 years in operation. Scott may level out, for instance, that greater than 80% of the centenarians they’ve honored are ladies, or how the best proportion of centenarians anyplace is in Japan. Every new inductee will get a certificates and a “Golden Okie” pin.

“We have performed it in each scenario. We have performed it in bars and garages and inside and outside,” Scott says. “And through the pandemic we did it by home windows — we stood outdoors and the seniors have been inside. Anyway that works.”

Every new inductee receives a “Golden Okie” pin as a part of the celebration.

Michael Noble Jr. for NPR


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Michael Noble Jr. for NPR

Scott says she has even been invited to pay tribute to centenarians on their deathbeds.

“I consider they’ll hear us, as a result of one explicit man would squeeze the hand of his son standing there beside him after I would learn sure issues about him,” says Scott. “I believe he was understanding a few of it.”

There’s additionally an instructional aspect to the group’s work. When a centenarian dies, volunteers take the biographical info that they’ve gathered and ship it to the Edmon Low Library at Oklahoma State College for researchers there who examine centenarians. The data can also be shared with the Oklahoma Historic Society.

The significance of paying tribute

One of many group’s latest inductees is Paul Romanello, who was born within the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York in 1922 — again when Warren Harding was president.

Speaking to Romanello is like going again in time. He can let you know about how as a boy, he’d prepare dinner potatoes proper on the street of what is now Midtown Manhattan. Or how he says he memorized the attention examination to make it into the Military for World Conflict II. Had he not, he might need missed the USO dance the place he met the love of his life.

“She had a ardour for dancing,” Romanello remembers. “In her dying days, she was nonetheless, ‘Paul, dance with me. Dance with me.'”

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Paula Naylor is certainly one of Romanello’s 5 youngsters. She says the previous few years have been powerful for her dad. He misplaced his spouse in 2015 after 70 years of marriage. He stayed of their dwelling for a number of years, however would finally transfer into an assisted residing facility. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Naylor says he was just about remoted from the world.

Paula Naylor poses along with her father, Paul Romanello. “He appeared very completely satisfied that he was getting all this consideration, and he knew he had lastly reached 100,” she says of his response to being honored by the Centenarians of Oklahoma.

Michael Noble Jr. for NPR


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Michael Noble Jr. for NPR

“We seen that he was fairly a bit completely different from not having the ability to work together with individuals, as a result of he was a really sociable Italian,” says Naylor.

However the celebration for his a centesimal birthday, held final month at a senior residing group in Tulsa, gave her father one thing to look ahead to.

“It was good,” Romanello says of his celebration. “I believed it was good.”

“Once we rolled him into the library and the entire household was there, he was so excited,” Naylor says. “He appeared very completely satisfied that he was getting all this consideration, and he knew he had lastly reached 100. And that is what he’d been speaking about for months.”

Phrases of knowledge

Helmuth, the Centenarians of Oklahoma director, says tales like which might be what it is all about.

“These are the issues that make our day, that make doing this worthwhile to us,” says Helmuth. “The few of us that do that are blessed by having the ability to work with the 100-year-olds.”

Through the years, the group’s volunteers have collected phrases of knowledge from the centenarians about the right way to stay an extended, full life.

Some give sensible recommendation, like “eat your greens” or “work laborious and lower your expenses.” Others are extra philosophical, like “don’t be concerned about what you possibly can’t change” or “search for good in every part.”

Then there’s certainly one of Helmuth’s favorites.

“One girl simply wrote ‘carry on respiratory,'” she says with amusing. “She’s bought a very good humorousness. She’s going to be OK.”

Paul Romanello was born within the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York in 1922. He met his spouse of 70 years at a USO dance. “She had a ardour for dancing,” he says.

Michael Noble Jr. for NPR


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Michael Noble Jr. for NPR

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