At 100: Independent and going strong

March 14, 2019

By Barbara Haig

Mrs. Emma Waite with her son, Steven.

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings may croon about 100 days and 100 nights, but a growing number of people are singing a sweeter song – 100 years.

According to United Nations estimates, the world was home to nearly half a million centenarians (people age 100 and older) in 2015, more than four times as many as in 1990. And projections say there will be 3.7 million centenarians in 2050.

One very special Milwaukee- area woman who has reached 100 is Emma Waite. A former nursing assistant at St. Francis Hospital, she now lives at a Milwaukee-area assisted living apartment facility.

She attributes her longevity to three things:

Good diet – “I never drank – except communion wine – or smoked. And I love good, home-baked food. My mother loved to cook, and I loved to eat it.”

Keeping active – “I look forward to summertime walks and going out on the deck for cookouts and to water the plants. I do arts and crafts, too. I used to knit and sew and made all my children’s clothes.” She also played guitar and ukulele when she was younger.

Enjoying every day – “It’s important to be happy and have someone who loves you.”

Emma knows what she’s talking about; she was married for more than 50 years to her husband, Gaylord. Together they weathered plenty of storms, including the famous blizzard of ’47, when Emma went into labor. She had to take the bus to the hospital earlier in the day, and Gaylord planned to join her as soon as he could, waiting on the corner for another bus to come along. When the police told him all buses had been cancelled, they gave him a ride in the squad and slowly made their way through town. Though he missed the birth, Gaylord was a good father, first to Steve and later to daughter Carol, Emma said.

After Gaylord passed away in 1992, Emma lived alone in an apartment for several years. Today she maintains her independence at Cornerstone, thanks to their attentive staff and help from My Choice Family Care. That’s the managed care organization that oversees Emma and the care of 8,700 Wisconsin residents (including 36 other centenarians) in 27 counties.

“We cover the room and board for Emma and make sure the facility provides meals, housekeeping and medication. If she needs a doctor’s appointment, we work to find a provider for her and handle the Medicaid paperwork.,” said Edna Spears, Emma’s Care Manager with My Choice Family Care. “We’re so happy to see people like Emma live long lives when they have the support they need.”

Emma’s son Steve checks in almost every day, and although she lives in Eden, Wisconsin, her daughter Carol keeps her entertained with stories about her children and grandchildren.

Emma’s advice for others who want to live to be 100? It’s simple: “Enjoy every day.”

My Choice Family Care is a sponsor of Super Senior Friday, an annual free event to connect seniors to resources, including health screenings. It takes place Friday, March 15, from 8:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m. at the Clinton Rose Senior Center, 3045 N Dr Martin Luther King Drive.