MARY L. - AGE 97

“I was born in Newark NJ, in 1917. I got married at 23 and my husband and I always enjoyed each other. It was wonderful when we had children. I have two daughters, five grandchildren and ten great grandchildren. My family calls me frequently. I don’t see them as much as I would like to but we talk a lot.

I was 73 when I stopped work. I was a salesperson in a department store. Before that I did office work. The last store I worked in was Haynes in Newark. When my children were young I stayed home with them.

I like living here very much. I like everyone here; they are all friendly. I had always lived in a house before. I thought I would miss it but I didn’t miss it after I left. I knew people here before I came so that made it easier. Before I came here my sister and I lived together, but I lost a lot of family at the same time. I lost my husband, my sister, and my brother-in-law in a short amount of time. But I didn’t want to live alone. It wasn’t hard to get used to being here.

I like being 97 except that I am having trouble with my legs. Otherwise my health is fine. I do a lot of reading and I like to visit with friends in the building. I have very good friends here; everyone is just lovely. Every time they have an activity here I come. They have communion, they have bingo, coffee time…. Several times a week I have an occasion to socialize. But I can’t do everything. I can’t go shopping because I can’t get on the bus. I like television but I don’t watch it all day long like some people do. I like to talk; I like to know what people do.

I read a lot for brain health and I try to think of ways to make regular activities better. Do them differently. I do puzzles. I also love to cook and I am always looking for different recipes. If I could only walk I would be perfect. I would go shopping every day. I like to look around. I like to make myself busy. To me that is creative; always taking in the world. I wish I had learned to use a computer; I envy people that can use a computer.

My daughter brings me groceries and some cooked meals. She comes every week. I cook for myself; there are no communal meals. The most important thing to me now is being able to get around on my own. I have always been very, very independent.

My religious beliefs have gotten stronger as I have gotten older. I watch mass every day, say my beads twice a day. I have more time and more things I have to pray for. But I can’t go to church because there are steps to go up. My political beliefs have also changed. I have gotten more open-minded. I personally don’t know much about the President but from what I hear, it’s not so good.

I feel that I had a good life. I did everything I was capable of doing. All of my children and grandchildren are educated. In fact my first great grandchild just graduated college. I think it is very hard to live today--very dangerous. It is much harder than when I was young, and too fast. I think people used to treat each other better. My advice to young people is to trust in yourself, believe in yourself, do the best you can.”

Interview conducted by New Jersey artist Janet Boltax for this exhibition.