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 Portrait of a Centenarian

By all accounts, Lily Hearst is a remarkable woman. She was born in Vienna in 1897 and lived there until 1938, when she and her husband and children immigrated to the United States. As a young girl, Lily learned to ski and rock climb and would swim across the Danube River just for the challenge of it.

All her life, Lily has pursued a wide range of interests, including the arts, music, science, and politics. She has a degree in music and reads and speaks three languages. Now, at 101 years old, she lives independently and still exercises every day. Her sight and hearing are excellent and she walks with a cane only because she was hit by a car when she was eighty-five (which, to her regret, ended her skiing career). She reads The Wall Street Journal daily, teaches piano, and plays in a classical trio at the North Berkeley Senior Center.

Lily Hearst remembers Sigmond Freud and William Reich. Lily and her husband went through psychoanalysis in Vienna in the 1920s. Reich was the analyst of Lil's husband.

Lily's memory is excellent and quite vivid. She remembers scenes from her childhood as if they occurred yesterday and loves to tell the story about spying on the great composer Gustav Mahler from her family's summer home. She also recalls seeing fabled cellist Pablo Casals perform in Vienna. "He played with his eyes closed," she remembers.

As a healthy centenarian, Lily is rare. Her parents lived into their eighties; her sister, until she was ninety-eight. Obviously, Lily and her sister inherited a genetic predisposition for good health and longevity. Throughout her life, Lily has also remained active, both physically and mentally.

Lily keeps a strict daily routine that begins at seven o'clock, when she gets out of bed, exercises, and fixes her own breakfast. At nine she goes to the pool and swims eight laps. After her shower, a friend drives her to the senior center where she attends classes, reads, watches movies, and plays piano. Lily keeps track of her life with a date book, writing down engagements and other things she needs to remember. She takes pride in the fact that she's organized and never late for an appointment. "With a little effort," Lily says, "you can be perfect."

Lily Hearst describes her daily and weekly routine. She does yoga and swimming every morning. She gives piano lessons on Thursdays. Her active life style has contributed to her longevity.


Lifelong Learning: Nat and Sylvia's Story

Nat and Sylvia Cohen are friends of Lily's and share her zest for life. Nat, the former dean of Social Welfare at the University of California at Los Angeles, is eighty-eight. His wife, Sylvia, who has a master's degree and was a clinical social worker, is eighty-six. Nat is a crack joke teller, a talent he depended on as a teacher. Sylvia has an excellent memory for names, faces, and details about people's lives. She credits that ability to her former job as a counselor for students.


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