2016-03-16 / Voice at the Shore

Vibrant group of seniors - age 90+ - inspire a crowd of admiration

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice shore correspondent


From left, standing: Pauline Puccio, Sonia Kaplan, Anna Antoninich, Marie DeVincent, Willa Stewart, Marge Mattus, Helen Francescone, and Diana Klein. Seated: Bertha Borowick, Jacqueline Scarbrough, Catherine Middleton, and Connie Gullota. Lower right corner: Sally Ball. From left, standing: Pauline Puccio, Sonia Kaplan, Anna Antoninich, Marie DeVincent, Willa Stewart, Marge Mattus, Helen Francescone, and Diana Klein. Seated: Bertha Borowick, Jacqueline Scarbrough, Catherine Middleton, and Connie Gullota. Lower right corner: Sally Ball. A vibrant group of 25 seniors over the age of 90 inspired a crowd of admiration at a “Nine- Agenarian” Celebration on February 30 at the Rosin Center of Beron Jewish Older Adult Services in Atlantic City.

“You inspire us all to go on and live a full life. Mazel tov and thank you for showing us the way. We love you!” said Gail Scherzer, Rosin Center’s director, to the packed room full of seniors who had gathered to celebrate their 90+ friends.

Fittingly, about 90 people attended the party—at least double the amount that show up on a normal day, according to a Rosin Center staff member. “You have to squeeze in here today!” said one senior as she walked in.

A seated exercise class preceded the party. Bertha Borowick, a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor with an imperturbable smile and twinkling eyes, was among the 20 seniors (including several other 90-somethings) who sat in the front of the room, raising their arms overhead and stretching their legs, following the instructor’s lead. She paused to take breaks only when her friends came up to hug her hello and wish her well.

Sally Ball, age 82, was especially excited to honor her friend and neighbor Pauline Puccio from Best of Life Park, an Atlantic City senior housing complex. “Pauline is an inspiration. She gets up, gets dressed and gets here every day. She gives us 80-year-olds inspiration to get here. I’ve got a book of excuses five-inches thick for why I can’t come, but when I come, I feel good!” said Ball.

After a group photo of the 25 Nine-Agenarians and much applause, the live music began. As entertainer Tom Tolnay played old classics like “Dancing Cheek to Cheek” and pop favorites like “Play that Funky Music,” a number of party-goers got up and danced. “It’s worth it to turn 90 just to hear Tom!” Scherzer said. After the music and dancing ended, everyone had lunch and shared a cake for honorees with the inscription: “90 Plus and Awesome.” Each honoree also received a certificate and a carnation.

Herman Solof, a 94-year-old with a healthy sense of humor, was one of the few men among the 90-somethings. What wisdom did he have to share? “Be happy. Don’t worry. Take life in strides. Enjoy every minute of it. Be happy with what you’ve got. Everything can be better and everything can be worse.” With a gleam in his eye, he added, “P.S., I’m available for autographs!”

Ethel Adelman, a well-dressed 91-year-old, stressed the importance of staying active. “Don’t stay in the house, you must socialize,” was her advice to other seniors. She herself sets the example of never being too old to try new things: At 58, she went back to college, and currently she is making new friends. “It gets lonely when your friends are gone! My children met an 88-year-old on the boardwalk and gave me her number.”

According to Sonia Kaplan, an incredibly vibrant and social 92- year-old, many of the honorees— including herself—are Holocaust survivors. This was not surprising to her, she said, because those who survived possessed incredible strength and resilience.

After coming to the United States following the war, Kaplan was a chicken farmer, then a hotel manager, then a clerk for Irene’s gift shop on the boardwalk. Eventually she became an author as well, writing “My Shattered Dreams,” a book about her experiences during the Holocaust. She now speaks at schools about her experiences and does book signings several times a year at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

Her philosophy of life: “If other people can do it, I can do it too— and better!” she laughed. “My bosses all knew this about me!”

Anna Anboninich, a 96-year-old Italian immigrant, came to the United States in 1950 knowing only two English phrases: “Thank you” and “good morning.” She has been coming to the Rosin Center for 22 years, but almost missed the party. “I was sick with sciatica, but my daughter said, ‘You have to go!’” She was glad she did. “The party was beautiful,” said Anboninich. .

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