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What does 100 years [young] look like?

February 3, 2017

If you were asked to describe what a vibrant 100 years of life looks like, do you think you could? After meeting Helen Barrow, a 100-year-old resident at The Village at Rockville–A National Lutheran Community, you would have the answer to that question. On Friday, January 27, 2017, Helen celebrated her hundredth birthday with a gathering of staff, fellow residents, and her extended family. Helen is not your typical centenarian resident; she enjoys walking daily for exercise, playing volleyball with the other residents, and will sooner forego a nap than missing any activity hosted at The Village at Rockville.

Her surprise party was met with no less enthusiasm as she was led into the dining hall. Upon hearing the jubilus shouts of “surprise!” Helen let go of her walker and danced with joy.

“I’ve had parties before,” she said, “but this is the best one yet.” Donning a purple birthday crown, Helen enjoyed an afternoon of her favorite meal – hot dogs, french fries, and a chocolate sundae with a cherry on top – and shared stories from her life, as if not a day had passed since they happened. 

“Growing up, my mother would always have things to give to The Home,” Helen began, referring to The Village at Rockville’s previous name. “We would take things like clothes and food, sometimes by horse and buggy, sometimes in a Ford Model-T.” 

At that time, Helen lived on a farm in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. She remembers riding her prize-winning horses into town to attend services at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, and said it was there where she first met several residents of The Village at Rockville (formerly the National Lutheran Home).

Studious as a young woman, Helen loved school and knew that she wanted to be a teacher from a very young age. After graduating from Shepherd College she went on to teach for the next 38 years in Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia – the latter part of her tenure spent helping her husband, Charles, run a camping supply business.

With her husband’s death in 1974, Helen became highly involved in the community and with The Village at Rockville. When it was time for Helen to plan her own retirement, The Village at Rockville was the right choice for her.

In true educator fashion, Helen was quick to impart her secret to life on the younger generations.

“You just need to stay active, keep moving and be nice to everyone you meet in the process,” she said, her eyes beaming, behind her thick, full-rimmed glasses.

Helen’s secret to life may not seem like that big of a secret to most people, but one cannot help but wonder if it is this philosophy on life that has given her the energy and vigor that we all wish to possess as we age.