DELMAR – Some assisted living facilities tout their bridge clubs. Delmar’s Peregrine Senior Living at Delmar Place hosts a “Century Club” whose membership includes three of its 85 residents who are 100 years old or older.
George Coffey, the oldest at 103, Muriel Faulkey, the “middle child” at 102, and Leland Case, the group’s 100-year-old “baby,” recently sat for a spirited discussion of their over 300 years of life experiences.
“We feel lucky to be with each other since we are all at least 100 years old,” said Coffey, the group’s philosopher. “You may be 100, but you can still think younger. … It makes a difference in your lifestyle and actual being. If you can’t think a little younger, you will get older.”
He stressed that he never looks back.
“I impressed on my children that you keep your eyes pointed ahead and don’t start looking back and say ‘I wish I did that,’” he said.
Coffey, who lived all over the country and had a car dealership, said he has lived as long as he has because he’s “a hard-headed Irishman.”
“My mother was from Brooklyn and my dad was born on the Isle of Man, and if that isn’t a combination I don’t know what is,” he said.
Coffey and Faulkey, who are one year apart, both grew up in Greenville. They reconnected when Faulkey moved to Peregrine Senior Living in October 2013. They did not recognize each other, but they started talking and realized they had grown up together.
“We talked so much and had so much fun talking about the things that happened in Greenville,” said Faulkey.
Faulkey said she and her husband were teachers, and when they got married, they moved from Manhattan to Greenville. After they retired, they traveled all over the United States and Europe together, first by camping here in the United States and then flying to Europe.
“We had a wonderful life together until he died,” she reminisced.
Case, who was born and raised in Knox, Penn., later lived in Ravena. He spent his professional life driving a tractor trailer for 35 years and retired nearly 40 years ago in 1985.
He said he has seen a lot in his 100 years, noting outhouses changing to indoor plumbing, ice boxes to refrigerators, and coal to oil heating. Coffey recalled when Freihofer’s bakery sold all their pastries and bread by horse and wagon.
“Those horses were so used to the routes that when the driver wasn’t even in the carriage; the horse knew right where to go and even knew where to turn around,” he recounted.
All three agreed that rather than finding these changes to be remarkable at the time they were occurring, that they didn’t really notice as the world was changing.
“I just didn’t think about it,” said Faulkey.
“Change doesn’t upset me because there is nothing you can do about it,” Coffey said. “You get to this age and look back and say it wasn’t so bad and it could have been worse.”
However, he noted the “demoralizing” of cities and towns is, for him, the most disappointing change over time.
Case objected to the proliferation of “gadgets.”
“There are too many gadgets,” he said. “They last three to four years and then something takes the place of it.”
Coffey and Case also agreed that in today’s world, the most important thing for the next generation to do is to get an education. Case, who dropped out of school in 10th grade to work, is particularly proud that three of his four children got college degrees. Faulkey, a former teacher, acknowledged that an education for young people is important, but said “to do right and treat people well is the most important thing you can do.”
When asked if they currently have any vices, Faulkey said hers is a weekly hot dog with lots of mustard. Case smiled and said, “a beer every once in a while, oh yeah.” Coffey said he had quit his vice –15 years of smoking two packs/day of unfiltered Lucky Strike cigarettes.
Based on varying reports, the average life expectancy in America is between 77 and 81 years old. According to the 2020 U.S. census, only 819 Americans were 100 or older.
“It’s rare to have one person who is 100 years old [at an assisted living facility], no less all three,” said Peregrine Senior Living Executive Director Christopher Oertel. “We feel lucky to have them all.”
At that, Coffey immediately quipped, “Do you feel so lucky to have me that I’m eligible for a 100-year-old senior discount for my monthly charges?”