What do you get with over 4,000 years of experience in one gathering? The wisdom, smiles and jubilation of 40 centenarians who have achieved the world record for the largest gathering of centenarians.
100 years of living—witnessing WW II, The Great Depression, Vietnam along with the evolution of technology, popular culture transportation, and more—is quite impressive when you think about what people who live exceptionally long lives have seen. Those expressive and knowing eyes behind the wrinkles say it all; the sage awareness to the events that transpired over the course of the seconds and minutes that add up to 100+years of history.
Marie Barnes, Corporate Marketing and Public Relations Director for Regency Rehabilitation and Nursing Centers, had a vision to create a large gathering of these wise centenarians. In fact, she wanted to break the world record. Well she did just that. This delightful lady who was responsible for organizing the impressive event found out last night that Regency did, in fact, win the prestigious Guinness Book of World Record for the largest gathering of people over 100. Her excitement from learning the news was tangible:
“The electricity in the room [of centenarians] could’ve lit up the lights across the world,” Marie comments. “Every one of them was beautiful. Beautiful smiles, wonderful stories and collective wisdom. Many great minds full of humor. They truly are amazing people.”
Learn why Marie was inspired to organize the event, what the biggest challenge was and why she is so elated with the experience.
Marie Barnes: This was kind of an overwhelming undertaking, but I’m so glad I did it. There are no instructions or formula for this kind of event. I kind of just ‘jumped off the cliff,’ and put my best efforts forward. People told me it could not be done; but I persisted because I know how wonderful the stories have been with our residents at Regency. In fact, some of the best events I’ve experienced as Marketing Director for Regency are 100-year birthdays. The family and community really enjoy these celebrations. But most importantly the centenarians really enjoy them—and rightfully so!
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MB: We have 5 centenarians at Regency Heritage, in Somerset, where the event was hosted and additional centenarians reside at our other facilities located in Dover, Hazlet and Wayne. There were 40 total who made the event—and all were from New Jersey.
MB: One would think it’s the traveling with wheelchairs or getting permission from the communities and families; although those parts weren’t as big a challenge as I thought they would be. The biggest challenge was getting the birth certificates. Guinness Book of World Records needed the documents and people were earnest. In fact, everyone was so helpful. Some people actually traveled to New York to get the paperwork. People born in other countries had ‘naturalization paperwork.’ It really was a team effort. For example, the oldest centenarian, Catherine Carlin—who will be 108 on November 17th—came to the event with the help of her dear friend.
MB: The whole experience has been inspiring. I have so many wonderful memories and so much wisdom from one group of people. I have to say that the oldest attendee was extra inspiring. She’s lovely and walks. It’s pretty amazing as she sat at a table with the youngest attendee and commented afterward, “She likes to talk.” Pretty cute.
Another 100-year-old got up and danced and a lot of them were cracking jokes and said, “Are you going to do this again next year?”
The whole experience has been great. Just the stories and wisdom. Two of the centenarians ended up being classmates, which was pretty fun.
MB: I have been calling everyone! I’m trying to personalize it as I developed a relationship with all of the seniors. I already spoke to one of the centenarians who still lives in his family home and drives. He is such an inspiration. I have been calling the others.
People comment that it is so “kind to honor them.” When people age gracefully, it’s a beautiful thing to observe. Very heartwarming. This has been an overabundance of joy for myself.
MB: I think it’s important to know that if you are at home and need to go to a nursing home, assisted living community or daycare, it can be a fulfilling life. There can still be many celebrations. I tell people, “Sometimes your roof has to change, but life can be wonderful when you have the right people around you.
David Gross, founder of Regency Centers, has been such a proponent of this event, and honoring our seniors. His philosophy in hiring is that every employee “has to be kind.” That philosophy makes a huge difference in providing an outstanding quality of life for our residents and patients at our four facilities. Regency Centers is truly “where caring comes to life.”