Woman gets surprise COVID-19-safe party on her 100th birthday


Birthday parties aren’t what they used to be thanks to COIVD-19. Just because celebrations can’t be traditional doesn’t mean they don’t happen, however. These days, they are just a little bit more creative.

When it came to long-time member of THE PLAYERS Senior Center Ollie’s birthday, friends and fellow members weren’t about to skip out on the celebrations, even though Ollie has had her fair share of birthday parties – 100 to be exact.

“I haven’t gotten to see too many people since this all happened,” Ollie said. “I miss the center, but I imagine everybody does. I heard one person say, ‘I would have nothing to do if it wasn't for the center. I look forward to the center like someone were to grab my hand when I were drowning.’”

For many seniors in Ponte Vedra, the past few months have been lonely ones. For those that live alone, social isolation can not only be mentally taxing but downright dangerous.

At THE PLAYERS Senior Center, Ollie is very popular. She attends almost every day the center is open. She misses her yoga and tai chi classes, eating lunch with her friend Richard, bingo and the occasional band that would come play music for the group. At the center, everyone knows her name and she gives dozens of hugs a day without being worried those hugs could potentially be unsafe.

Prior to the virus, Ollie’s daughter Donna spent months planning the ultimate centennial birthday bash. When the travel restrictions were instated, she realized most of her family wouldn’t be able to make it. Just weeks before her mom’s birthday, she reached out to the Council on Aging’s Ponte Vedra senior Center coordinator to help plan a safe surprise.

So, on May 15, when Ollie saw her center friends driving up, cars decked out in birthday wishes, she was taken completely by surprise.

“I have no idea how [my daughter] did all that and planned it and never, in some way, let it out,” Ollie said. “Boy, oh boy, I never knew she could keep a secret like that.  I was really speechless. I think if I were a fainting person I would have fainted.” 

According to both Ollie and her daughter, the secret to longevity is staying positive and feeling grateful for what you have.

Ollie is very grateful.

“I had more than a party,” she said. “I just can't find words to tell. You know how feelings are? Everybody’s are different, but imagine the deepest feeling you could feel.”

Being overwhelmed with love, perhaps may not be the secret to living 100 years but it may be the secret to having so many people love you back. If positivity is the birthday cake of life, then letting yourself feel that much love would most certainly be the icing, candles, song and, well, party.

Although, nobody can possibly feel as good as Ollie did on her birthday, every day. For that, her advice is live with purpose and appreciate the present.

“Everybody has a day at a time,” Ollie said. “Nobody has two days at once. Everything is one day so we shall see, we shall see.” 


Photo by Amber Lake

Ollie celebrated her 100th birthday on Friday, May 15. Everyone is invited next year when she turns 101.


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