A Centenarian's Secret To Staying On Her Toes

At 100 years old, Miss Clara was terrified by the thought of using a wheelchair, but she knew that if she worked hard, her family would have a long wait before seeing her need one. 

This May, Clara Gurwitz, who goes by Miss Clara, celebrated her 100th birthday like a star. Not only was this centenarian honored with a proclamation from the Woonsocket Mayor, Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, but she also received honors and awards for achieving 100 years from a United States Senator and a member of the House of Representatives. Miss Clara was also thrilled to be featured on the front page of the Woonsocket Call and the Valley Breeze as she celebrated a century of memories... and what a life it has been.  

Born in Russia, Miss Clara moved to the United States when she was a young girl. By the time she reached her 20’s Miss Clara married into a family who lived and worked on a cattle farm in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. When she and her husband opened the first milk market in the 1950s, they never could have imagined how fast the business and their life would take off. Before she knew it, they were raising 4 children and running 8 convenience stores and 2 supermarkets, which became the well know Hilltop Farms that we know today.  

Growing a family and business was a lot of work, and for years it took up all their time. “It was a very demanding time,” shared Miss Clara. So, after decades of hard work, it was time to enjoy another side of life. “I told my husband it was time to sell our shares, travel, and live a little,” she expressed. So, they left the business to their son, Gary, and took off to travel the world and dance the night away. “We had a great life. My memories from our travels are a treasure,” she smiled.  

No matter how busy her life got, or where in the world she might be vacationing, Miss Clara always kept one thing consistent. Exercise. After having her first child, over 80 years ago, Miss Clara started exercising to lose weight, when she fell in love with the way exercising made her feel she knew it would become one of the most important things in her life, so every day since, she got up and got moving. 

Over the decades, Miss Clara has stayed active and self-sufficient. When she turned 93 and began having hearing and sight loss, she knew it was time to give up her drivers license, but that didn’t mean she would give up her independence. Her son Eddie moved in to help her get around and take care of the chores. 2 years ago, her daughter Cookie joined them, “and now we’re closer than ever” Cookie smiled. 

“Mom mother never wanted to be a burden for her children, and she has been anything but that” shared Cookie. At 100 years old, Miss Clara continues to do everything she can by herself, and her exercises are no exception.

Miss Clara attends the Woonsocket senior center 3 days a week for her morning exercise class. Each class, she works on stretching, weights, and some chair exercises, her favorites being the sit to stands! Most afternoons Miss Clara and Cookie also enjoy bingo!  “It's not much, but that’s not important. Just being there is important,” Miss Clara smiled. When Miss Clara isn't playing bingo, she loves to play card games, which are a great mental exercise, and enjoys her afternoon naps to keep her refreshed and ready for anything. 

A few years ago, Miss Clara started to have trouble with her balance, so, she began using a cane, and last year she transitioned to a walker. A few months ago, her son ordered her a wheelchair, “and that frightened me to death” expressed Miss Clara. “He’s waiting for me to need it, but he's going to have a long wait,” she shared. 

Miss Clara decided to try out Physical Therapy to work on her balance, so, she made an appointment with Dr. Alex Linde at the Woonsocket clinic. Twice a week, Miss Clara shows up to her appointments motivated, ready to try anything and an inspiration to everyone! And after just a few weeks, she is feeling great and seeing progress. 

Miss Clara hopes that by working hard in physical therapy and attending her exercise class three times a week,  she will be able to stay out of the wheelchair, and hopefully, even get rid of her walker completely, “I am going to walk normally and not like an old lady” Miss Clara shared. 

During her times at physical therapy, Miss Clara fills the gym with laughter as she has an amazing sense of humor, a knack for telling jokes, and always gets people with the punch lines.  Miss Clara is so proud of the work she does at physical therapy, and it’s a big accomplishment for her to be self-sufficient.

Miss Clara gets up and heads to the gym, “They don’t call me speedy for nothing” she smiles as she joins Dr. Linde.  And with that, she starts her stretches before Dr. Linde even asks. As she keeps up her with her exercises, Miss Clara continues to smile, bring laughter to everyone, and enjoy every second of her wonderful life while always keeping a positive attitude. 


- Learn more about our Woonsocket Clinic

- Click here to learn more about what physical therapy is and what it can do to help you. If you are still not sure if physical therapy is what you need request an appointment to speak with a physical therapist about your concerns

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