-- A California woman who turned 110 this week has good genes, a purposely low-stress lifestyle and a farm-fresh diet to thank for her long life, according to her 76-year-old daughter.
Sally Mitchell of Irvine, California, was feted with a birthday party Nov. 25 that featured singing, birthday cake and a city proclamation read by a city council member on behalf of the mayor of Irvine.
“She really kind of held court,” Mitchell’s only child, Suzanne Becker, said of her mother. “I was surprised that she had the staying power but she was right there with balloons and they did a lot of singing which was great because music has been a part of her life always.”
Also celebrating at the party was Mitchell’s youngest sibling, 94-year-old Maxine Baker. The two sisters grew up with four other siblings on a farm in Michigan, something that Becker believes attributes to both of their longevity.
“They breathed good air every day. They ate from the land and from their gardens. Their diet was one that was free of hormones and pesticides,” Becker said.
Mitchell left Michigan for California after her family sold their farm and continued to work for AT&T, where she would eventually meet her husband, and Becker’s father, Howard Mitchell.
Becker remembers her mother as living a “very common life,” one that was very purposely not filled with a lot of stress.
“I realized that she ordered her day in such a way that she didn’t have stress,” Becker told ABC News. “I’d say, ‘Let’s do this,’ and she’d say, ‘No, we have these other things we have to do.’”
Mitchell was also a disciplined exerciser – walking and taking water aerobics classes – a “cover-to-cover” daily newspaper reader and maintained a fulfilling social life.
“She and my father were founding members of a club in Newport Beach, a social organization that met monthly and had lots of activities,” Becker said. “They were very active in the Presbyterian church, too.”
Howard Mitchell died in 2000 at the age of 97, leaving behind his wife of over 60 years.
Mitchell moved in with her daughter, who gave her three grandchildren and one great-grandchild, before moving on to the assisted-living facility nearby.
Even at the age of 110, Becker says, her mom takes no medications and has never suffered from any major health setbacks, like cancer.
“Her long-term memory is pretty darn good and her short-term memory needs to be prompted a lot but when she is prompted, she is right there with you,” Becker said. “One of the big problems is hearing impairment and that makes it far more difficult for her.”
Becker says her mother also voted in every election right up until the past three years or so and often debated with Becker and her husband over political issues.
“She used to question my husband and me about things political and local activities that we didn’t even know about,” Becker said.
“She still has the [news]paper in her lap when I visit,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the old cover-to-cover anymore but if she sees something of interest, she’ll read it.”