Despite being born decades before the Internet, Jean Brown recently helped write a manual on how to use it for her fellow residents at Belmont House.
At 100 years old, Brown smiles often and speaks fondly of her memories of watching plays in Toronto, travelling the world with her husband and living at Belmont House.
“I enjoy life — it’s what you make of it,” she says. “It’s marvelous to see people around here who are handicapped who are doing things, who are bright and cheerful and move around, don’t whine or moan.”
Brown is one of 12 centenarians living at the seniors’ home in the Rosedale neighbourhood who were honoured June 24. Family and friends of the centenarians attended the event, with Bob Rae as a featured speaker.
Tina Robeznieks, who has worked at Belmont for 23 years, said she wanted to organize a special event for the centenarians after she realized there are so many living there.
“It’s important to acknowledge our residents who have given so much to the community,” she said. “They … put everything in place so that we can have everything that we have today.”
The centenarians have contributed in different ways. Edra Ferguson, born 1907, was the first small-claims judge appointed in Toronto. Madeleine Field, born 1908, was a dentist and Eleanor Roosevelt was one of her patients in California. Edna Jewett, born 1909, was a
fashion director at Simpsons and taught fashion at what is now Concordia University.
They moved into Belmont in different years, where many remain very active. Blanche Emby, born 1909, has sewed throughout her life and now does needle-on-canvas every day. Donalda Jardine, born 1908, participated in a fundraising walk last year, winning the Oldest Participant Award. And the only male centenarian at Belmont, Harry McQueen, owns a cottage of which he is very fond.The
other centenarians are Elizabeth Agnew, an avid traveller; Marjorie Putt, who came to Toronto from London, England at the age of one; and Margaret Johnston, a lifelong lover of music.
Belmont’s oldest resident is Jean Borden, who is 105. She worked in a library before marrying the nephew of Prime Minister Robert Borden.
The centenarians give younger generations a chance to learn how to be resourceful, Robeznieks said.
“They didn’t have all the luxuries we have today,” she said. “Now we have everything at our fingertips: you want anything, you just Google.”
People must take care of themselves and be caring and helpful to others, said Brown, sharing some words of wisdom.
“If it’s even a smile, give them the bright side of life,” she said. “You’ve got troubles, they’ve got troubles, they maybe need your help more than you need theirs. Give it to them.”
She also encouraged optimism.
“You have your good days and you have your bad days. Look through your good days and accept your bad days.”
Marguerite Davis, a former dietitian who celebrated her 100th birthday with a “smashing party” of 130 guests, shared her advice: eat healthy, exercise and don’t smoke. She also agreed optimism is on the list.
“Find something good in everybody and forget about the bad because everyone’s got good and bad,” she said. “And don’t worry.”
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