Peggy Sanders: The oldest among us prove the farm and ranch lifestyle brings satisfaction in life
“Nonagenarians” is the word for people who are between 90 and 99 years of age. Who knew? And what do they have in common?
When we held our first Focus on Fall River County History Conference, we had 10 presenters and four of them were in their nineties. One of them, Caroline, is still going strong. She will be 102 on March 29, lives in her own home by herself, and is an inspiration and a blessing to all.
South Dakotans are hardy. They also have commonalities as we learned as they spoke at the conference. As Caroline put it recently, quoting her doctor, “You are walking because you keep walking.”
At the top of the list is they are active, both mentally and physically. Caroline has two levels of stairs in her home and she doesn’t hesitate to use them.
When I visited her recently, she had a jigsaw puzzle that she was working laid out on her table. She often reads and her memory is sharp. When I asked her history questions for something I am trying to pin down, she told me who to contact and how she knew.
The most important trait I could personally observe from the history conference speakers was optimism. Simply put, though they may have suffered mightily over the years and had great sadness come to them, every one of them looked to the positives of life. As Caroline talked about the Great Depression she said, “We were poor but we didn’t know it. There was always someone else worse off than we were.”
I suspect in the vernacular of today, they were all “free range children.” That is, they were out and about having fun with siblings and neighbors — when they weren’t helping their parents with chores and other work. Those opportunities led to another trait of the age group: being mostly self-sufficient. They don’t tell themselves they can’t do something because of their age. There may be other reasons for them to decline, but it’s not age.
A keen sense of humor is vital for them. When Everett Gillis from Hot Springs, another speaker at this conference, hit 100 years old, he was asked to what attributes his longevity.
He replied, “I don’t worry about things I can’t do anything about.”
In other words, he kept his nose out of other people’s business and didn’t worry about his own problems. He lived to be 102.
A third presenter at the conference, Violet, was one month shy of her 100th birthday when she died. The week before, she had picked apples in her yard and gave me a bag when I went to visit. She too lived by herself, cooked and cleaned, as she always had.
Meaningful, satisfied lives, optimistic, content, strong survival instinct and an overall sense of happiness are descriptors of these particular farm and ranch-raised folks.
What I personally know of each of them are their consistent smiles and deep reluctance to complain. ❖
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