Centenarian says she's lucky


June 22, 1993|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff Writer

Centenarian Helen S. Ward said there are no great secrets to living past 100.

"I guess it's just luck," said the 100-year-old Pasadena woman, who was honored last month as one of Maryland's oldest residents. "I've lead a good, clean life. There's no great secret to it."

Mrs. Ward, who has lived with her granddaughter on Sylview Drive for the past five years, may be a little hard of hearing and now uses a wheelchair to get around. But her mind is sharp and her attitude generally upbeat, said her granddaughter.

"She's got a very positive attitude," said Kate Scheminant, who asked her grandmother to move in with her family five years ago as she was approaching 95.

Until then, Mrs. Ward had lived in her own home in Hamilton, with relatives on the second floor to give her the occasional support she needed.

Clad in an aqua-blue dress with her white hair curled and coiffed, the Baltimore County native talked about her life, her losses and her opinions about current thoughts on staying healthy and living a long life.

Her views on good nutrition:

"I eat whatever is put in front of me," she said. "I love sweets." She is particularly fond of chicken, chocolate and Coca-Cola [the "three Cs," as her granddaughter calls it]. Mrs. Ward steers clear of seafood, even though she loves it, because it gives her an allergic reaction. Other than that, no nutritional rules guide her life.

On drinking and smoking:

"I tried smoking; I didn't like it. I tried drinking; didn't like that much either. Occasionally, I'd take a cocktail at a social function. But I was never much of a drinker. And I never smoked."

On exercise:

"Oh, I never exercised," she said. Because she was always thin, she didn't see the need. "She exercises her wrists," chimed in her granddaughter, noting that her grandmother has always been an avid card player.

On sun exposure:

"I used to love to [sun] bathe, but I didn't get burned much." As to whether the sun ruins one's skin? "I don't know about that." Her skin secret? She still uses Oil of Olay every night.

On regular trips to the doctor:

"I never went. I had very good health. There was nothing to go for," she said. (She visits one every three to four months now, however).

On avoiding stress:

"I was a homemaker, always. I never worked a day in my life, outside the house." Marital harmony and cooperative children also helped make for a relatively stress-free life.

"I had a good husband, good children, good homes, good neighbors and good friends," she said. "I've had a good life."

Although she has a child, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to keep her company, she said one of the hardest things about living so long is outliving many of your relatives and all of your friends.

Her husband died 30 years ago. She also outlived one of her two children -- a daughter, Madeline, who died seven years ago.

"All my friends are gone," she said more than once during an hourlong interview. "They're all gone. I miss my friends more than anything else."

Another hardship is losing physical abilities and becoming less active. "I had a driver's license until I was 92," she said proudly. She hated losing the freedom of go

ing wherever she wanted, when she wanted.

An avid reader, she used to read four novels a month. "My granddaughter got them from the library. I read one a week," she said, adding that the novels kept her mind active and passed the time.

Recently, her eyesight has deteriorated and she can no longer read. Although she listens to books on tape, "it's not the same. They don't develop a story like they do in a book," she said.

Despite losses through the death of loved ones and the aging process, Mrs. Ward generally maintains an optimistic attitude, family members said.

As to the best aspects of being 100 and still going strong? "I had a birthday party when I turned 100," she said. "About 60 people came."

She also appreciated being honored by the governor's office May 27, during the Maryland Centenarians Recognition Luncheon.

"I especially like my pin," she said, pointing to a golden pin declaring, "100 years," which she received at the luncheon.

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