102-year-old Whitestoner dishes on secrets to long life

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The key to longevity may be spending more time at the library.

That advice comes from a knowledgeable source on the topic of staying healthy and alert long into the golden years: Dora Allen, a sprightly resident at Bridge View Nursing Home in Whitestone, who celebrated her 102nd birthday Feb. 17.

“I like to read. Books, you know, big books from the library,” she said Monday morning. “I don’t wear glasses. My eyes are good, I never have any trouble. I had a quiet life and I always liked to read. I spent most of my time reading, reading lots of books from the library.”

Allen’s dietary recommendation: “Eat anything.” Her exercise regimen: none beyond living life and laughing a lot. Her religious involvement: “never.” Is she happy at the nursing home? “Why not? I’m always happy.”

The home’s director of activities, Dana Mayo, said he is blown away by the level of engagement Allen, who had a son, Robert, and was a homemaker in her younger days, has retained after more than a century of life in New York, where she has lived her whole life in the city and on Long Island.

“I have other people in the building who are way younger than her, who were librarians, lawyers and doctors and none of them are as sharp as her,” Mayo said. “But for me, what I would take from Dora is her kindness. When I first started here three years ago, she helped me get acclimated to the surroundings and meet all the residents. Every time I come down here she’s always friendly, greeting people, she’s always got a smile on her face. I’ve never seen that woman sad.”

She has never been taken to the hospital since Mayo began his tenure at Bridge View. Unlike many younger residents, she rises at about 7 o’clock every morning, picks out her clothes and dresses herself, eats breakfast, then heads downstairs to the common area where she chats the day away with her best friend Emma, her infectious cackle peppering their daily conversations.

“That’s some hell of a [set of] genes. She’s one of a kind,” Mayo said.

So how does it feel to be 102 years old? Is there a sense of pride or accomplishment?

“I never thought it was anything special,” she said. “I’m just a little older. It doesn’t bother me.”

Though Allen never drank or smoked, she does say that living a full life like hers does require kicking it up a notch from time to time. She likes to let loose at Bridge View by singing along to karaoke, watching “Oprah” and “Let’s Make a Deal” and listening and dancing to musical artists from her youth, including Glenn Miller and Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey.

“A quiet life, yeah, but not too quiet,” she said. “You have no fun if it’s too quiet.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 10:41 am, October 12, 2011
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