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Have you wondered at the secret to healthy living to 100—or even 106 or 107? Spry, diminutive, sparkly blue-eyed Eleanore Rubinstein knows. As Cedar Sinai’s oldest resident, she turned 107 on April 23rd! Yet she keeps so busy she has little time to ponder an answer. If you listen closely, though, clues drop forth like pearls on a strand.

“I don’t know why I stay well,” she remarks. “The body certainly isn’t quite what it used to be. I’m not golfing anymore, that’s for sure!” In her spare, neat apartment decorated with five generations of photos, she watches golf on TV though… along with her alternate favorite, baseball. “I love baseball, I played it as much as I could when I was young.”
Tennis also. Well past the age of 90, in fact.

And while other centenarians might despair at outliving their spouse, contemporaries and friends, not Eleanore. “There’s nobody left of my era,” she admits, her voice still steady. “They’re no longer here. For the life of me, I don’t understand it. I did nothing to deserve it. I can only say, I’ve had a lot of help.” She points up toward what could only be described as the heavens. “I’m deeply Jewish. I’m not religious, but I’m deeply Jewish. My whole life, almost entirely with no exception has been good: just good things.”

Born in New York in 1913, Eleanore’s family moved to Portland when she was seven and her father landed a job at Meier and Frank. She was an only child. “My father wanted a boy, and my mother wanted a girl. I was pretty much my father’s son! Fortunately for him, I was very physical. That was a little difficult for my mom, she was very dainty. But they never stopped me from doing anything I wanted to do.”

I didn’t think I’d ever be in a place like this, but Rose Schnitzer is home. It’s amazing, absolutely amazing.

That included going to what was then named Irvington School, and graduating from Grant High. Eleanore volunteered for the Red Cross during the Second World War, and her mother feared the work might take her only child overseas. “She was so cute, my mother,” Eleanore says. Just like the biblical Ruth, “She told me, ‘you go overseas, I go overseas.’ We were very close.”

After the American Red Cross, Eleanore devoted her work outside the home to several non-profits: the PTA, Girl Scouts of America, The National Council for Jewish Women and—even past 100-years-old—Store to Door, a non-profit supplying needed goods to homebound older adults, most of whom were appreciably younger than Eleanore.

Today, Eleanore takes life slightly—and only slightly—easier. She no longer “works,” but no one would describe her life as “rest,” either. Bingo, bridge hands, jigsaw puzzles, the latest bestselling fiction, are all in reach or available at Rose Schnitzer. Prior to moving into independent living, she lived with her youngest daughter, Diane. “You have to be sensible,” she insists. “You can love someone a great deal, yet sharing a kitchen’s not always easy! It’s too much, to cook for someone else, and my kids didn’t want me to be alone. I don’t want to cause anyone problems. And at this age, my problems are my kids’ problems.”

“I didn’t think I’d ever be in a place like this,” she admits, “but Rose Schnitzer is home. It’s amazing, absolutely amazing. The staff fall over themselves to be good to me. The food is remarkable—diversified, fresh, warm. I don’t know what I expected, but they wait on me in the dining room, they bring the food to my room, they can’t do enough for me. I’m making new friends, it’s amazing,” she concludes. “I never expected to be so warmly received. After you’re here awhile, if you don’t like Rose Schnitzer, there’s something wrong with you!”

But truly, Eleanore is never alone. “There are amazing people here. Thelma Newsom—we played tennis together a million years ago. Leah Nepom, Bernice Menashe…. I’m so lucky.” And every day family—Eleanore’s children Richard, Caroline, Diane, or Sandra; her seven grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and two (with a third on the way!) great-great-grandchildren—call or visit. “My family is my greatest blessing,” she insists. “Each of them has played a vital part in my life and made me what I am today. They’re the best. It’s not just me, everyone says so!”

So, like winning letters on a Bingo card—or pearls on a strand—it’s evident what creates a life well lived past 100: A great attitude and acceptance of what is; gratitude for what befalls you, whatever it may be; consideration for those who love and worry about you; beloved and attentive family and friends; perhaps a furry companion; and a healthy bissel of faith. That’s plenty.

And after all that, Eleanore proclaims, “You won’t find me anywhere else, here I am!”

Diane Solomon is a psychiatric nurse practitioner in private practice in Portland, Oregon. She serves as adjunct faculty at OHSU, board member of the Oregon Nurses Association, health policy chairwoman of Nurse Practitioners of Oregon, and is a member of Oregon governor Kate Brown’s Behavioral Health Advisory Council. She delights in meeting CSP residents and learning about the ways in which they live active and meaningful lives.

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