The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


February 8, 2010

Few feel neighborly now, 104-year-old says

LEWISBURG — Grace Schwab, who turns 105 on Tuesday, remembers daily life before electric lights, indoor plumbing and automobiles.

But for all the conveniences that didn’t exist in the early 1900s, there was a degree of neighborliness that doesn’t exist now, she said. She’s not sure we’ve got the better part of the bargain.

“People aren’t a bit like they were when I was growing up,” she said.

“Neighbors were there to help one another,” she said. “If someone’s barn burned down, the neighbors would come out and build them a new one.”

Today, once in awhile, you find people like that, but not as a whole, she said.

“And you never had to even think about locking your door.”

She thinks lawbreaking “is only going to get worse.”

Schwab is believed to be the oldest resident in the Valley. She contracted the Spanish Influenza of 1918 and almost died in childbirth in 1927, but she’s in fairly amazing good health today.

She needs the help of a walker, but age has not affected her mental agility. She takes no prescription drugs.

“I cut out all my prescriptions 15 or 16 years ago,” she said. She studied the use of herbs, vitamins and minerals and takes only those. Her food is simple, usually unprocessed. She eats meat, but very little. Her favorite snack is black raspberry ice cream and her favorite personal culinary concoction is pistachio salad — a layer of cottage cheese, layer of crushed pineapple, sprinkled with dry pistachio instant pudding and topped with whipped cream.

The “secret to longevity” so many people seek from her is not a special diet, exercise or potion. Here it is: “Love thy neighbor.”

Fellow Heritage House resident Mary Bush attests that it’s a philosophy Schwab lives by every day.

She’s first to send food down to a new resident, loan a can opener or help with a chore. She’s been doing that for 15 years at the residence, although some heavier tasks, like changing bedding, are now too tiring for her.

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