Home > Donald H. Harrison, San Diego, United States of America > At 104, Laura Simon worries for her aging children

At 104, Laura Simon worries for her aging children

November 25, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

LAURA SIMON—She’s 104 on Thanksgiving Day
By Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO—Among the celebrants of November birthdays at The Patrician senior residence in the University Towne Center area yesterday was Laura Simon, the oldest of them all.  Today, Thanksgiving, she turns 104.

Simon smiled when Milica Todorivic, a member of the dining room staff, brought over the large birthday cake that would be shared among the celebrants and guests, and expressed delight when she received from well-wishers a gift of a pink Snuggie blanket which she can wear while listening to music or the news in her independent-living apartment.

However, she confided over a hearty lunch of salad, soup, and a combination of chicken and lamb entrees, birthdays really hold no excitement for her.  It’s not because she has had so many birthdays, but  rather because her children also have had so many.   Simon has a son Mayo and a daughter Sydelle, whose ages make them well past eligible to live in the same senior residence that Simon does.

Getting old is like “climbing Mount Everest,” says Simon, who four years ago when she turned 100 had her memoir, I’m Still Here, published.   The book now is being serialized by San Diego Jewish World.

Being elderly is very hard, she says. It upsets her to think that her own children are now facing the period of their lives when they may have to suffer the same kinds of  indignities of age that she has.  She’s too stoic to complain about health problems–“everyone has them,” she says–but she intensely dislikes the way that American culture tends to forget that elderly people have led full lives , contributed a great deal to this country and have wisdom and experience to share.

She also said she worries that her children will have to be old during a time of severe economic downturn.

Simon told me and my wife Nancy that she is very skeptical about the announcements from various federal agencies that the current recession shows signs of ending. “I don’t believe it,” she declared.

She said the day before the Great Stock Market Crash in 1929 which signaled the beginning of the Depression, she had read similarly rosy economic forecasts in the Chicago newspapers.

Simon said she still recalls how well-to-do people become suddenly poor, even homeless. She can still picture people sitting on street curbs during the Depression, trying to heat up food with small fires set in street gutters.

Today, with eyesight so poor that she is classified as “legally blind” and needing a metal walker to get around  the Patrician, Simon says she is painfully aware how much more difficult her life could be if such a facility were beyond her economic means.

She said that she fears for seniors whose savings may become  so depleted they won’t be able to afford to live in such a facility.

When Simon was just a little girl, her father left her mother.  So, her mother had to work, and Simon had to take care of herself.   “I got street smart and I’ve been  taking care of myself since then,” she said – meaning a century of self-sufficiency.  Having to be independent, and having to overcome hardships, made her strong, she said.  Perhaps that strength accounts for her longevity.

Although on the one hand, Simon clearly is proud of being 104 and her ability to avidly follow current events and enjoy literature on tape, she’s doesn’t want anyone to pigeon hole her because of her age.  Chronologically she may be 104, but she said she thinks of herself as perhaps 40 years younger–  mine and Nancy’s contemporaries, in other words.

She certainly is as well-informed—maybe even better informed—than many people of my generation.

This afternoon, her son Mayo, a New York City-based playwright, is expected to arrive in San Diego to be with her on her birthday, and on the following day, Rabbi Moishe Leider of Chabad of University City is expected to drop by The Patrician senior residence as he usually does on the last Friday of each month.

Being with family and friends are the real components of a happy birthday, Simon says.

It’s the same with Thanksgiving !

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

  1. Maryclaire Sullivan
    July 23, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    I too was so very inspired by the courage, integrity and wisdom of this beautiful woman and many of the others also portrayed on the PBS show. My father is a “youngster” of 92 and despite losing his wife, our beloved mother a couple of years ago, he still continues to get up, take daily 2 hr. walks, read his papers and simply forge on with life. As he always says, it would be so easy to just stay in bed. He also has lived a very tough life growing up in NYC in his youth and possesses an incredible memory for names and events going back to the 1920’s, He too is a survivor and a man of great yet simple faith. Surely this is/was indeed “the greatest generation”. I am in awe of that scrappy spirit. Thank you Ms, Simon and my Dad, Edward Sullivan, for showing us ALL how to do it! “They” are us and we are them! –

  2. Holly Taylor
    June 30, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    We watched on PBS “Over 90 and Loving it” last night. It was a delightful program, so inspiring. We are all so blessed to have such a lovely lady to bring hope for all of us. I hope she is still with us today. Holly Taylor

    • June 30, 2011 at 1:16 pm

      Laura is well and looking forward to hr 106th birthday on Thanksgiving!

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