Westport woman turns 109 and is doing just fine
Updated 5:34 pm, Wednesday, September 14, 2011
On her birthday cake last week, Laurie Olsen didn't have a candle for every year she's been alive. That tradition was suspended long ago.
After all, she turned 109 on Sept. 6.
A 9-year-old when the Titanic sank, married for five years before stock market crash of 1929, Olsen has a short and sweet answer when asked why she's lived so long.
"Just the Lord above," the Westport woman said.
A non-smoker and only an occasional drinker -- she has a fondness for Bailey's Irish Cream -- Olsen couldn't be in better health for someone her age, her family said. She has no serious chronic conditions and takes only one prescription medicine.
"I take more medications than she does," said her daughter Muriel, who herself looks younger than her 84 years.
Olsen is among the oldest people in the nation -- the world, for that matter -- although far from the oldest. Several groups track the ages of people who are 110 and over, people they call "super centenarians."
One website, supercentenarians.com, lists a 122-year-old woman in France as the oldest person in the world whose age has been authenticated and a 119-year-old woman in Pennsylvania oldest in the U.S. and No. 2 in the world.
Originally from Long Island, Olsen, moved to Connecticut when she was 16. She lived briefly in Stamford before settling in South Norwalk, where she also found work at the Cluett Peabody Shirt Factory. She and other women sewed together the various pieces of men's shirts.
When she wasn't hard at work, she loved to dance.
"I liked to waltz, but I also liked to hop," she said. She also liked to "shimmy," but confessed "my mother never knew it."
Olsen married the love of her life, Henry Olsen, an electrician with Nash Engineering, in 1924. Muriel was their only child.
"After we married I would try to teach him to dance," Olsen said. While they would occasionally share a dance floor, Henry for years went out begrudgingly. However, Olsen said he eventually "got so used to dancing."
She has outlived her husband and three brothers. Her lineage has extended to two grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and one great great-grandchild.
While Olsen's pill box only has one pill in it, her hearing has faded, so her daughter speaks directly into her ear. She still is able to walk with the aid of a walker.
Her hearing and the walker aside, the lines on her face are the only hints of her age.
While some seniors lose their appetites, that's not the case with Olsen. Asked to name her favorite foods, she indicated she's not picky.
"Anything they hand me, really," she said.
Olsen doesn't get out like she used to, but every Friday -- like clockwork -- she and her daughter go to the hairdresser in Westport, then Penny's Diner in East Norwalk. At 109, that's quite enough stepping out.
"I'm here, what's left of me," she said with a smile.