Secrets to Long Life: Trust God, Sing, Keep Smiling

Post a Comment » Written on April 28th, 2009     
Filed under: News
By Matthew Enquist

CHICAGO, IL (April 28, 2009) – Mabel Ball of Covenant Village of Northbrook was living in suburban Chicago the last time the Cubs won the World Series, in 1908.

“My parents wouldn’t take me to the game!” she jokes.

Mabel Ball, who turns 101 in August, is one of 44 centenarians – people over the age of 100 – living in Covenant Retirement Communities (CRC). Many of them continue in residential programs and live very active lives.

The oldest CRC resident is 108 years old and lives in Covenant Village of Florida.

BallBall was born in Washington, Illinois, on August 6, 1908. She spent much of her childhood in Zion, Illinois, from 1913 until her mother passed away in 1929. When her mother died, Ball dropped out of school so she could work to help support the family.

“I’ve been trying to get my education ever since she died by listening and observing and reading,” she says. “I’ve always had a lot of curiosity about the world and about what I read. I want to know why things are the way they are. I want to know deeper truths.”

Ball got married in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression. She met her husband when they were two shy kids in the same Sunday school class during primary school.

He later decided to “make a claim.” Scraping together the funds for a wedding was difficult. “He put his life on hold to get that ring!” she says. “But he did it and we were very happy together for 62 years. He was a very good student and was truly my sponsor and the one who could encourage me.”

Ball, who has lived at Northbrook for eight years, has five children, 21 grandkids, and nearly twice that many grandchildren, many of whom visit her regularly.

Helen Macdonald, 104, was born in Indiana in 1904 as an only child. She owned and operated a trucking business in Cleveland, Ohio, until her retirement at age 62. She moved to Covenant Village of Florida in 1994.

MacDonald misses playing golf, a sport she played three times a week until she was 93. She claims that it was golf and playing the organ that kept her young (see accompanying photo).

Each night she sits down at the organ before bed and plays her late husband Jack MacDonald’s favorite song, “Unforgettable.”

“I play in honor of Jack,” she says “He was a good man, and we were married for 30 years.”

“You have to have faith that God’s in control of your life.”

While both women have an incredible wealth of memories, neither shows their age.
They each have their own reasons for living so long.

“My secret has been pretty well exposed in all the magazines lately – it’s meditation that helps keep me feeling good,” MacDonald says.

She jokingly adds, “But I’m going to stop doing it. I’m living too long!”

For Ball, the recipe was a combination of eating right and living a life of faith. “We were never extravagant, and we did a lot of things the natural way,” she says.” We grew our own food and butchered a lot of our own meat.”

“Also, the Bible tells me that my days are numbered,” she adds. “So, if my days are numbered, you’re going to have to learn to roll with the punches. You’ll have good times and bad times and life isn’t easy, but you have to have faith that God’s in control of your life.”

But for Ball, there also is a mental aspect to supplement the physical and spiritual: you can’t let yourself “think old.”

“The secret to living longer was to hang around younger people,” says Ball. “I always tried to be in dialogue with younger friends. I mentored a lot of young women through our Bible study groups and I think they really helped me, too.”

Throughout the years, both women point to God’s providential hand at work in their lives.

“God has been at work guiding and protecting me my whole life,” says MacDonald. “My community of faith, the Catholic Church, has been a strong presence. I get to go every Sunday with friends here.”

“It takes a whole lifetime to learn what he wants of your life, and I’m still not through learning.”

Ball, too, credits God’s consistent presence in her long life.

“I learned to trust him when I was very young, and I was always interested in learning,” says Ball. “It takes a whole lifetime to learn what he wants of your life, and I’m still not through learning.”

Ball points to God’s sustaining work for her and her family in tough times. “When the downs came we knew we could still trust him to get us through it. When you know who’s in control, you can endure. You have to get past the problem and know that there is an answer and that he can work it out.”

Both women have words of wisdom for younger generations.

“Just be a good person,” says MacDonald. “Keep a song in your heart and a smile on your face. You just have to go with the flow and not fight it. That was especially true during the Depression.”

Ball gives advice to seek sound wisdom, advice that she has consistently followed in her dedication to learning all she can. “Get to know God. Don’t get away from the Solid Rock, the hope of all generations.”

Both women are happy they moved into Covenant Retirement Communities. “There are lots of activities for me here and all the socializing that we have is always a pleasure,” says MacDonald.

When Ball first moved in, she was leaving a home she loved, a quiet place in the woods. “I wanted to run away the first couple of weeks,” she says. “It was too confining. I didn’t have the nice windows and nice birds that I could feed. But you finally get used to it, and I had to be somewhere that if I needed help, there was help.”

“The Christian atmosphere is a good thing and gives me people to relate to.”

Ultimately, Ball says her move was a good decision. She enjoys singing in the choir and taking part in Bible studies with her peers, who often represent diverse viewpoints.

“Out of all the denominations I’ve come across, there has always been something to learn,” says Ball. “We can disagree in love. The Christian atmosphere is a good thing and gives me people to relate to.”

While Ball and MacDonald enjoy life in their homes, the people that work around them feel privileged to serve.

Jan Frizén, director of marketing at Covenant Village of Florida says of MacDonald,  “She’s an inspiration to us because she’s one of the most positive people I know. Her smile makes us all want to be better. I want to be just like her.”

Neil Warnygora, executive director of CV Northbrook, cites Ball’s positive attitude during Northbrook’s ongoing remodeling construction as just one example of her influence.

“She brings vitality and a positive attitude toward each day the Lord gives her,” Warnygora says. “I have no doubt that this positive spirit is a reflection of how she has lived every day of her life.”

MacDonald and Ball are just two of many centenarians living in Covenant Retirement Communities across the country, serving as a resource for Covenanters moving forward into the future.

“Honoring our elders is our mission at Covenant Village of Northbrook and all our Covenant Retirement Communities,” says Warnygora.

(Editor’s note: Matt Enquist is a North Park University student completing an internship with the Department of Communication.)

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