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Centenarians still going strong

| Friday, Jan. 31, 2003

At 105 years of age, Emil Shaffer still dotes over his 95-year-old wife Mildred on the occasion of their 64th wedding anniversary.

The couple, residents of Riverfront Terrace in Applewold, shared a kiss and a simple celebration of both their Thursday anniversary and Emil's 106th birthday that's coming up on Saturday.

Meanwhile at the Armstrong County Health Center yesterday, Elva Chilcott, 102; Katherine Homenda, 102; and Beatrice Kirkpatrick, 101 and turning 102 next month, joined 11 younger residents of the center, members of the 90 or more birthdays club, for the center's annual birthday bash luncheon.

All of those 100-year-olds are members of the centenarian club in Armstrong County.

It's a group that's not as rare as it was at one time. In fact, the 100-plus age group is the fastest growing group in America, according to the 2000 census, and their numbers have tripled in the past two decades.

"This is the first time I can remember having three that are 102 years old," said Nancy Dragan, the center's administrator.

Susan McGaughey, activities director, told the group and their families and friends that one of these days 90 will not be such a big deal, hinting that the party might have to be changed to celebrate 100 or more birthdays instead of 90 or more. Those coming to the center in their 70s are just babies, she said.

"They (100-year-olds) are some of the healthiest people in the building," said McGaughey.

Armstrong County Commissioner Jim Scahill attended the luncheon. He told the group that he recently visited with Velma McPherson who is 105.

"She's still baking cookies," said Scahill. "So you all have something to look forward to."

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