Brockton woman celebrates 102 years
At age 102, Gertrude Finnegan reached a new milestone Monday in a family blessed with longevity.
"My father was 97, my mother 100 plus six months," the centenarian said, calculating the years while reading the dates she has written in her journal.
And, she had a footnote to the family history.
"God doesn't want me yet," she said. "He's not ready for me."
The second oldest of nine children in the Prince Edward Island family, Finnegan said she has more than genes to thank for her longevity. Her older brother died at age 95.
"I thank God every night for a good day," she said. "It's very important."
Sitting in the living room of the sunny West side apartment she shares with her daughter Audrey Jackson, 77, Finnegan defies her age.
Wearing a bright floral-print dress with matching earrings and pendant, she carefully opens and reads dozens of birthday cards and answers a steady stream of telephone calls from friends and family.
She does not need eyeglasses to read or hearing aides to hear. She recalls the details of her life on the 140-acre farm where she was born and where she gave birth to her daughter. And, she spends her time doing jigsaw puzzles, the 500-piece variety.
"She is amazing," said Lisa Jackson (no relation to Audrey), one of the Brockton Hospice caregivers who help Finnegan cope with the pain from colon cancer.
On Monday, Finnegan and Chaplain Pauline Gates joined in Finnegan's birthday celebration.
"I haven't seen anyone this old," said Lisa Jackson, who lives in Pembroke.
Actually, the number of people age 100 or older is growing, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.
In 1990, there were 37,306 centenarians, 1 in 6,667.
In 2000, there were 50,454 centenarians, 1 in 5,578.
That goes along with the graying of America.
According to the National Council on Aging, 12.4 percent of the population was 65 or older in 2000. That number is projected to jump to 16.3 percent by 2020. And, by 2030, nearly one in five Americans will be 65 or older.
The 2030 prediction equates to a doubling of the population of age 65 or older to 71 million, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's State of Aging and Health 2007 report.
Finnegan is among the growing number of elders who remain at home, said Lucille Dellaire of Old Colony Elderly Services, the Brockton-based agency that represents the government's effort to shift community programs to keep people out of nursing homes longer.
"The 80s group has grown tremendously within the past five years," said Dellaire.
As the population ages, Dellaire said the focus of elderly services is shifting to serve an older clientele, those in their upper 70s and 80s.
"Five percent need assistance to stay at home," she added.
Elaine Allegrini of The Enterprise (Brockton, Mass.) can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.