Rhode Island’s Oldest-Old Gather for Older Americans Month


Older American Month

Director Charles J. Fogarty with Catherine Tiemey, 101, of Pawtucket Credit: Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs

On May 3, 2018, Governor Gina Raimondo kicks of Rhode Island’s celebration of Older Americans Month by hosting the 41st Annual Governor’s Centenarian Brunch.  The almost two hours gathering of the state’s oldest-old met at the Bridge at Cherry Hill in Johnston.

The Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs (RIDEA) was given the difficult chore of compiling the list of centenarian invitees. But, the U.S. Census Bureau ACS Demographic Estimates for 2016 show that there are 28,799 Rhode Islanders aged 85 and older living in the state, but there is no way of knowing how many of those people are 100 years of age and over.

So, RIDEA conducted a survey of nursing homes, senior centers, and case management agencies to identify the state’s centenarians, with eighty being invited to the event.  The 59 invited guests age 100 and over brought an escort- typically a family member, friend or health aide. Elected officials came, too, bringing their greetings.

At the brunch, Governor Raimondo declared read a proclamation declaring May as Older Americans Month in Rhode Island.  Health and Human Services Secretary Eric J. Beane and Division of Elderly Affairs Director Charles J. Fogarty recognized the centenarians for their contributions to their communities.  Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena was in attendance, providing special recognition to the Johnston residents and thanking The Bridge at Cherry Hill for hosting the joyous occasion.

The eldest man and woman present, as well as the youngest centenarian’s male and female present were presented with specials citations.  Every centenarian in attendance received a gubernatorial citation.  Secretary Beane recognized some specific centenarians in his remarks as they had dedicated their lives or careers to serving others.

Sharing Life-Long Stories and Tips on Longevity

Secretary Beane spoke with 104-year old Frances Amico, learning that the highlight of her long-life was adopting her son Peter.  She was age 45 when she adopted Peter, who was almost 3 years old at the time.  Frances’ story touched Sec. Beane, as the need for loving foster families still rings true today for children in state care.

Other centenarians came forward to share their interesting life stories, too, some even giving their thoughts as to why they reached age 100 and over.

Vera Latorre, 108, who earned the distinction of being the oldest female, most memorable moment really was not just one event or moment.  It’s being an inspiration to friends and loved ones throughout her life which has been her greatest joy.  She is truly grateful for all the love and kindness she receives daily and is especially grateful for her breakfast in bed every morning.

The oldest male, Emile Brassard, 103, stated that he enjoys life and each moment as its happening.  He has loved all the moments of his life and looks forward to more. When looking back at his 102 years of life, he says, “there were so many special moments, how is it possible to pick just one.

World War II veteran Arthur C. Prisco, 102, served on the USS Hamlin AV15 as a Petty Officer 1st Class Metalsmith. Arthur’s ship was in Tokyo Bay for the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on the USS Missouri in 1945.vAn avid golfer, Arthur, is the oldest person to compete in a RIGA golf Tournament and he is the last founding member of Trigg’s Golf Club in Providence.

Esther Sarafion, 100, one of 12 siblings, says that the secret to longevity is golfing (which she continues to do weekly, although now indoors), eating good Italian food (especially polenta) and an occasional Marguerita (don’t hold the salt)!

Samuel Bender, 102, spent almost 50 years in his veterinarian practice before retiring. He and his late wife moved to the Ocean State to be near their daughter and Sam has become an active participant in Laurel mead’s vibrant community, working out in the gym, swimming almost daily, attending lectures and performances and enjoying outings to many Rhode Island cultural centers.

Josephine Tabis’s lifetime event was when her sister who was unable to see asked her to take her to the Lillian Feinstein Senior Center. Once the 101-year old walked in, she fell in love with the place. She became a volunteer and ended up assisting in the kitchen and later ran the kitchen for many years. She now checks people in for lunch daily and always has a smile on her face. She warms everyone’s heart and never has a complaint. Everyone loves her.

And Veronica Farrell, 101, is a lifelong resident of the Elmhurst section of Providence. She is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design and Rhode Island College.  She was an art teacher for 40 years in public schools and then served as an Art Teacher Administrator for Pawtucket for 20 years. She is an active member of the Providence Art Club and RI Water Color Society.

Remaining Engaged in the Community

“I look forward to this event every year,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “It’s amazing to see Rhode Island centenarians not only thriving but remaining engaged in their communities. I’m committed to making investments that help seniors live independent, happy lives in their own homes for as long as possible,” she says.

After mingling with the centenarians, Fogarty said, “Living longer may be more common than it was, but living well and continuing a healthy, active lifestyle into the second century can be a challenge.”  He noted that the attendees “have maintained extraordinary lifestyles and defy nearly every stereotype of aging. These Rhode Island centenarians prove that providing supportive senior services and programs enables older adults to live longer, happier, and more productive lives.”

In addition to the annual centenarian brunch, the RIDEA is celebrating Older Americans Month throughout the month of May.  Here is a listing of activities: May 8 – Senior Center Services/IIIB Funding Announcement Event at Progreso Latino; May 9 – Cranston Senior Services, 90+ Birthday Celebration; May 11 – Rhode Island Elder Minority Task Force Health and Wellness Fair; May 22 – Lifespan Respite Grant and Rhode Island Family Caregiver Coalition Event; and May 25 – Leon Mathieu Senior Center, 90 plus Birthday Celebration.

For details on Older American Month activities at West View Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, call (401) 828-9000.


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