The pandemic has changed a lot of lives. It has particularly made it difficult for the elderly who are an at-risk population. Centenarians have been through the various trials this world has presented to them including the 1918 pandemic, the Great Depression, and World War II. While this population has been vulnerable, several have overcome SARS-COV-2. Others have made adjustments to their daily lives to survive in this current situation. I had the pleasure of interviewing Doris Sherk, a 97 year old retired teacher, grandmother, and mother. Despite the limitations imposed by this pandemic, Doris still maintains a healthy lifestyle filled with nutritious meals, exercise, and time with loved ones.

Doris was born in Abilene, Texas on January 21, 1923. As an adolescent, she walked a mile to get to the bus stop, helped her family harvest crops like corn, maize, and cotton, and witnessed many progressive changes within the nation. She went on to become a wife, a mother to 2 sons, and a teacher. She not only taught in typical classrooms, but also taught Sunday school classes.

After retiring, she and her husband moved to Cardiff, California to join their son and grandchildren. She lived and traveled all over the world with her husband from Texas to Oregon to Europe to Australia. Having outlived her siblings and most of the people she knew from her adult life, Doris still continues to live a fulfilling life with her family and 2 adorable dogs! While there have been changes to her routine due to COVID-19, her discipline and dedication to maintaining her health and life may give insight into her longevity.

A Blessed Morning

Doris wakes up at around 6 AM, and only uses an alarm if she needs to be up at a certain time. She thanks God for a restful sleep and for giving her another day in “His beautiful world”. After getting dressed, she prepares breakfast herself which is usually a smoothie with spinach leaves, frozen 1/2 of a banana, ground flax seeds, craisins, sunflower seeds, and protein powder. She believes that there should be some type of protein in every meal. For breakfast, she also has a meal which could be something like a poached egg on toasted wheat bread, steel cut oats or oatmeal with toast. Doris has quite the nutritious start to the day as she believes that breakfast is the main meal followed by a moderately sized lunch and small dinner.

To her, faith is an essential part of her life, so she begins her day with four devotionals and Joyce Meyer’s 30 minute sermon on the internet. Depending on the weather, she may opt to work in the garden/yards and watches the sermon later in the day. This helps her exercise her body as she takes care of fruit trees, rose bushes, and even some vegetables.

Healthy Meals

For lunch, Doris usually has a meal that has some kind of protein, veggies, and grains. This could be turkey with veggies on toasted wheat bread, homemade soups, salads, stir fry with tofu or chicken, and even burritos. She cooks all of her meals on her own and enjoys trying new recipes. Nuts seem to be a major source of vitality for a lot of centenarians. Doris would agree as she likes walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds.  She also enjoys fresh fruit and a good cup of iced or hot tea. Dinner is usually the same as lunch but a smaller portion, and she eats early at around 5:30 PM.

After dinner, she brushes her teeth, and sometimes, brushes her teeth again before bed if she’s consumed a snack. Her bedtime routine is simple but ensures that she gets a good night sleep. She dresses for bed, removes her hearing aids, takes a melatonin tablet, and says a final prayer.

Family and Friends

doris and her family

Faith and spending time with loved ones seem to be an integral part of Doris’s life. She is adored and loved by her friends, two sons and their wives, two dogs, four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, nephews, and nieces. Human connections are not the same virtually. However, Doris is very tech savvy and has been keeping in touch with friends and family from all age groups. The internet has helped Doris with keeping her connected to the world through virtual Bible studies, articles, and email. She often sends her loved ones jokes and interesting videos she finds.

Adjustments in Quarantine

While some parts of her life have remained the same since the quarantine, Doris has had to make some changes. Before the pandemic, Doris used to go for walks, but now, walking with a face mask hampers her breathing. As an adjustment, she walks in the backyard. Along with exercise methods, socializing has also changed. Doris used to meet every Wednesday morning at her church with 6 other ladies. They would meet to have conversations about various topics and to enjoy each other’s company. Now, they all communicate virtually through emails and telephone calls.

She used to visit the library often, but now she reads eBooks, usually 2 per week. One thing she especially misses is the time she would spend serving her church’s nursery during Sunday services. Despite being able to drive on her own, for the safety of her health, she has relied on ordering groceries by phone and other items through Amazon ever since March 18th.

Words to Live By

doris and her dogs

When I asked her for wellness advice, she said this: “Take care of your body. Eat wisely, avoid alcohol and tobacco, and maintain proper weight. Choose to be happy. Make good friends, and treat others as you want to be treated.”

As I got a glimpse into Doris’s life, it was apparent to me that her discipline and her devotion were key to her long life. She never imagined that she’d live this long. For her, every day is a blessing from God, and she does her best to serve the world in whatever way she can. To this day, she donates to several charities, helps out her grandchildren, volunteers, and supports her community. She left me with a verse that she thought would be reassuring to us all at this time. John 14:27:  “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart, and the peace I give you is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

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