Seniors ponder decision to celebrate or disappear

Challenges of Living to Age 100


How will you celebrate your 100th birthday? At a recent AARP Chapter meeting, I extended special wishes to Charlotte Mann who was enjoying her 99th birthday. I told her I would have a special cake for the occasion next year. She responded: “I’m not going to celebrate!”

A piece of artwork by local artist Nancy Strange-Seib in the Florida Institute of Technology Foosaner Art Museum featured a weathered window frame with six panes. In five of the panes is the same photograph of an old woman sitting in a rocker by the window. In the sixth pane, the rocker is empty.

As a docent at the museum, I asked people what they saw. The responses were similar: “she died, she got up to welcome a man friend, she went to the bathroom or she went to greet her grandchildren.”

In the eighth week of the exhibit, one woman responded: “she climbed out the window and disappeared.”

I was amazed.

“How did you come to that conclusion?” The visitor shared a book “The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.” The story by Jonas Jonasson explores the adventures of Allan Karlsson.

Karlsson lives in a retirement home in Sweden. The staff is preparing to celebrate his 100th birthday within the hour. Karlsson had a life full of adventure and experiences. He opened the ground-floor window of his apartment, climbed out and disappeared.

He is gone! The adventures of his life continue anew along with the memories of his long life. It is fun to read; it is a mystery. The book gives us hope, joy and anticipation. Ideally, we should celebrate every day. Karlsson is a role model for all of us.

A passage from Isaiah (65:20-21) summarizes the challenge for all of us: “an old man who does not round out his full lifetime; He dies a mere youth who reaches but a hundred years, and he who fails of a hundred shall be thought accursed. They shall live in the houses they built, and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant.”

In SAIL magazine, Leland Kuhn, a senior single-handing sailor commented: “Life’s too short to just sit on the dock.” St. Edmund Rich commented about celebration: “Learn as if to live forever; live as if to die tomorrow.” Let the celebration begin! It’s a new year. 

Ed Baranowski is president of Topics Unlimited, a Melbourne-based education, seminar and consulting company. He can be contacted at