By Eric Heinz
Gloria Rice is nearing the age bracket gerontologists call “super centenarian.”
At 106, Rice’s communication skills have diminished but her spirit for life has not. She never married, has no kids and has outlived her direct relatives. She celebrated her 106th birthday on Sunday, Oct. 4.
Rice graduated from Van Nuys High School in 1927, after which she worked for the city of Los Angeles. She was a librarian and then transferred to the department of water and power, and eventually retired from there.
Neil Colgrove’s mother and Rice bought a house together in the San Fernando Valley in the early 1960s and had been friends for decades. Colgrove now has power of attorney for Rice.
“They both gave up driving and transferred by public service and cabs together,” Colgrove said. “They took a couple of cruises and a cruise to the Caribbean and New York. They did quite a few things.”
At her home, Rosehaven I, Jay Pichika oversees a few senior citizens. She said before Rice, the oldest person she had taken care of was 102.
Rosehaven I is located within a residential neighborhood. The residents spend their time at the beach or going on different outdoor activities, share meals together and celebrate special occasions. BINGO is never in short supply. They also go to the Dorothy Visser Senior Center in downtown San Clemente.
“Most facilities don’t provide the same kind of activity,” Colgrove said. “This makes it very easy for Gloria to be happy as part of a community, and when you’re part of something there’s something more to life than just getting up and going to bed.”
Colgrove said Rice was still as sharp as she ever was until about a few years ago when she became increasingly immobile.
“I found Jay when my mother and Gloria were at an assisted living facility where she needed a little closer supervision,” Colgrove said. “She just became part of our family, like having two grandmothers for my children and my sister’s children.”
Rice said she doesn’t really have a secret to longevity. She said she “keeps going,” which many health experts have attributed to long life—the more active people are, the longer they live, is the adage.
When asked how she feels turning 106, Rice said “pretty good.”
“I can’t pick out what the best thing about turning 106 is,” Rice said.
Although she can still communicate, Rice suffers from dementia.
Pichika said she’s still very alert; however, they have to keep an eye on here when she decides to wander off.
Rice said she always eats healthy, even though she’s an admitted fiend for all types of cookies.
Colgrove said Rice has always been a generous person, beaming a “smile and a chuckle.”
“She’s a very even-keeled person; I think I only saw her get mad once, ever, in all the years I’ve known her,” Colgrove said.