News

Marcia C. Smith: Once in a lifetime

Sally Mitchell is the center of attention while music therapy volunteer Lauren Lugo sings old-time tunes. Administrator Gina Zion is at left, and caregiver Zelenia Tabora is in back. by Mindy Schauer, Staff Photographer

Sally Mitchell is the center of attention while music therapy volunteer Lauren Lugo sings old-time tunes. Administrator Gina Zion is at left, and caregiver Zelenia Tabora is in back. by Mindy Schauer, Staff Photographer

By Marcia C. Smith, Staff Columnist, Orange County Register, Nov. 23, 2014

IRVINE – Her delicate hands rested in her lap, her dainty fingers tapping to the softly sung melody of “Singin’ in the Rain.”

Sally Mitchell closed her eyes and leaned back in her favorite blue La-Z-Boy recliner in the common room of her assisted-living home, Irvine Cottages.

On this recent morning, like every morning of her remarkably long life, she didn’t leave her bedroom until she looked pretty, proper and presentable.

Her shoulder-length silver hair was done in gentle curls. She wore a black sequined sweater, slacks and knit booties. A white pearl necklace hung over her heart.

She wore bright red lipstick that outlined the faintest of tight smiles, one that still – still! – hints at a hidden joy as she lets herself get carried away in the music.

On Tuesday, Selma “Sally” (Hurthle) Mitchell will turn 110 years old.

She has outlived her best friends, her husband of 67 years, three of four siblings. She has lived through the Great Depression, both World Wars, 19 U.S. presidencies and more than a century of social and technological change.

She has seen Halley’s Comet – twice – the first in 1910, at age 6, while sitting in the back of a hay wagon on her family’s Michigan farm, and the second in 1986. She remembers the sinking of the Titanic and still ranks one invention as better than all others.

“I’ll never forget the day my family got a telephone,” she said.

Her secret to longevity isn’t so secret. She tells everyone who asks: “I have tried to plan my life in such a way that I didn’t create needless stress.”

Mitchell always finds something to interest her and has become expert at letting disappointment and negative thoughts quickly go.

She embraces many simple pleasures: reading the newspaper every morning, enjoying flowers, feeling sunshine, sharing a smile and conversation, looking through family albums, joking with her hospice caregivers, wearing a fancy blouse, sitting in her cozy chair and listening to music.

She’s prepared to be serenaded with “Happy Birthday” on Tuesday for living so long.

Experts estimate that one in 5 million Americans lives to be 110. There are only 75 people living in America who have passed the supercentenarian age of 110 years, according to the Gerontology Research Group.

The oldest living American is Gertrude Weaver of Arkansas, who turned 116 on July 4.

“My birthday is Tuesday,” Mitchell said with a grin.

For this feat, the staff at Irvine Cottages treats her like a princess. Lauren Lugo, the volunteer music therapist who sings to Mitchell every week, gently placed a silver plastic tiara on Mitchell’s head last Tuesday morning. Mitchell has worn it since.

“Sally is a treasure for how she has lived such a long and happy life,” said gerontologist Jacqueline Dupont, the CEO and founder of Irvine Cottages Memory Care.

“She’s extraordinary. She’s my movie star.”

Mitchell’s voice tires after a few sentences. Her hearing is fading, though it’s better in her left ear. She listens closely and saves her speech by giving the most concise of answers to almost any question.

Can you tell me about your life?

“It’s long,” she said.

Do you remember the stock market crash and the Great Depression?

“I try not to think about it,” she said.

World War II?

Silence.

She’d prefer to engage in playful morning banter with caregiver Ojie Umali, coaxing him into trading coyote howls and doggie barks.

“We have a little play,” said Umali. “She has quite a sense of humor and likes to make people around her smile.”

Her memory fades in and out, but photos and familiar people bring everything back into focus. Her daughter, Suzanne Becker, 76, of Irvine visits several times a week to bring her a fresh-cut rose from her garden and connect the dots.

“At almost 110, you’d expect some things to go,” said Becker, Mitchell’s only child. “Even though the body is weaker, she needs a wheelchair to get around and she doesn’t always remember whether she had one child or two, she is still here and can be just as quick and sharp as ever.”

Last week, Mitchell noticed that her daughter got new glasses. “They’re nice,” said Mitchell, who hasn’t needed any of her own.

Selma Lenore Hurthle was born Nov. 25, 1904, in Pentwater, Mich, the first of two daughters among four children.

She grew up on a farm without electricity or indoor plumbing. She traveled using horse and buggy.

She played the piano, sang in an elementary school quartet and performed at church fairs and socials.

Curious about the world, she left agrarian life for college, the Ferris Institute (now Ferris State University) in Big Rapids, Mich., to study the secretarial arts. Few women – 8 percent – pursued higher education then.

In 1922, the Hurthles sold their farm and moved to San Marino to nurse her brother, who had been injured in World War I. Sally took the El Capitan passenger train to get there. She still remembers her first whiff of California: the oranges from the station’s surrounding groves.

She went to work as a secretary for AT&T to “make my fortune,” said Becker, repeating one of her mother’s familiar embellishments.

There would be no millionaire fortune needed for a woman who has always considered herself fortunate.

Sally met AT&T salesman Howard Mitchell. He drove a Model A Ford from New York to marry her, as she liked to say, “in 1933, the year the zipper was invented.”

The couple moved to Fullerton, where Howard worked as an AT&T regional manager. Sally became a homemaker and raised Becker, cooking, sewing and making clothes for her daughter and her dolls.

“She always made a beautiful home for us,” Becker recalled. “She also dressed up every day. She cared about her appearance and knew my father loved to see her in beautiful high heels.”

In 1963, when Howard retired with a gold watch, the Mitchells moved to Newport Beach. The couple stayed active in civic groups.

They read the paper every morning over breakfast. Sally painted with watercolors.

At St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Howard became an usher, Sally a member of the flower guild.

Becker praised her parents’ marriage, saying, “I never heard them raise their voices or say an unkind word to each other.”

The Mitchells were married 67 years. Howard died in 2000 at the age of 97. Sally lived in Newport Beach until 2004, then lived with Becker until 2011 before moving into Irvine Cottages.

“I’d remember nights when my mother and her sister (Maxine, 97, of San Juan Capistrano) would stay up all night laughing and talking so loud, making no sense because Maxine has Alzheimer’s,” Becker said. “They were having a lively party!”

Speaking of “live,” Mitchell, a few years ago, had to prove she was indeed Selma Leonore Hurthle Mitchell to continue receiving Social Security checks.

Becker remembered how her mother told the agent that she had forgotten some key dates to verify her identity.

“I have to forget. It’s been a long time, and I’ve had to make room for the new stuff,” Mitchell said.

Like her upcoming 110th birthday.

The home is already decorated with “Happy Birthday” posters bearing her photo, the walls festooned with balloons and streamers. The cake and “110” candle has been ordered, and the music – Mitchell’s favorite – is scheduled to be performed with piano, guitar and harp.

Becker and Maxine will be there for the Tuesday celebration. It’s bound to be a once-in-a-very-long-lifetime event.

Contact the writer: masmith@ocregister.com


Super Sally Turns 110 Years Old!

L to R: Daughter Suzanne, Sally Mitchell, Great-grandson Fisher, Granddaughter-in-law Allison

L to R: Daughter Suzanne, Sally Mitchell, Great-grandson Fisher, Granddaughter-in-law Allison

Local Irvine resident Sally Mitchell will be turning 110 years old later this month. The soon-to-be supercentenarian – an individual who has reached their 110th birthday – currently resides at Irvine Cottages, an assisted-living facility that specializes in providing memory care.

At the age of 110, Sally has retained a high quality of life. For perspective, Mrs. Mitchell has lived through nineteen presidencies – from President Theodore Roosevelt to the current Obama administration. She has seen the United States fight through both World Wars, survive the Great Depression, and enter into the modern technological age.

Selma “Sally” Mitchell was born on November 25, 1904 – the same year as the third Olympic Games in St. Louis. She grew up on a farm in Pentwater, Michigan with her four siblings. After high school, Sally attended the Ferris Institute – today known as Ferris State University – at a time when less than 8 percent of women sought higher education in the United States.

After earning her business degree, Sally moved to California in 1922 to care for her brother who suffered an injury in World War I. She came to the Golden State by way of the El Capitan passenger train, and she cites waking up to the smell of orange trees as one of her favorite memories.

Sally secured a job with AT&T as a secretarial assistant. This job would prove to be more than just a paycheck, as it brought Howard Mitchell into her life, who would become her husband of sixty-seven years. Howard and Sally had one child, Suzanne, and the family settled in San Marino, California.

The length of Sally’s life is astonishing, considering that gerontology researchers have currently verified only seventy-five individuals who have reached the age of 110 in the world (Gerontology Research Group). Even more astounding is the fact that Sally shows no sign of dementia or other memory-related illnesses. Dr. Jacqueline Dupont, gerontologist and founder of Irvine Cottages, describes Sally’s mental health as extraordinary for her age. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, age is the most significant risk factor for dementia. Individuals 85 years or older have a 50 percent chance of developing the mental disease – and the risk factor increases every year.

Sally’s sole child, Suzanne, attributes her mother’s longevity to living a stress-free lifestyle. Suzanne describes her mother as “more of a reactor than an actor,” meaning that Sally has chosen to never stress about things outside of her control. Sally’s aversion to stress has preserved her physical and mental wellbeing for over a century.

Sally turns 110 on Tuesday, November 25.

    Written by Charlie Crane, 2014 Irvine Cottages Summer Intern and current Sophomore at USC


Irvine Cottages Featured on NBC Nightly News Show

The story below originally aired on the NBC Nightly News and was published on NBCNews.com on September 14, 2014. The original can be viewed by clicking here.

IRVINE, Calif. — Reclined in a plush red chair by a sunny window, Ida Mitchell taps her black slippers to the rhythm of the guitar and nods in time with the music. Next to her in the living room, half a dozen residents delicately clap their age-worn hands and sing along to “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” Ida will tell you with a smile about her love for bridge and for riding horses. She might tell you more than once.

Ida, 88, is a resident of Irvine Cottages, an assisted living facility in Irvine, California. Those living here suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. And while they enjoy the guitar playing and sing-alongs, there is an extra something special in store for them today.

Kenneth Shinozuka will soon start the eleventh grade. He’s a Boy Scout and a lover of the outdoors, and he wants to someday cure Alzheimer’s Disease.

Shinozuka, 15, crosses the cheerily decorated room with its floral paintings and karaoke station, and greets Ida with a handshake and polite salutations. Then, he gets down to business.

“I made this sock that lets Conrad know when you walk off your chair or out of bed, and lets him know if you need help,” Shinozuka says, referring to Ida’s nurse.

“Oh really?” Ida asks. “That’s pretty clever.”

“Thank you,” he says, in his characteristic politeness. “So we’re going to put the sock on you know, if that’s okay.” Delicately, he kneels down and slides a blue gingham sock equipped with a sensor on Ida’s right foot.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, of the estimated five million Americans with the disease, about 60 percent of them wander — and often become dangerously lost — as a result.

Shinozuka has invented a pressure sensor that when worn on the bottom of the foot or with a sock detects an increase in pressure and wirelessly sends an alert to a caregiver’s smartphone. Not only did Shinozuka come up with the gadget from scratch and teach himself how to make it, but he’s also beta testing it on patients like Ida this summer.

The CEO and founder of Irvine Cottages, gerontologist Jacqueline Dupont recalls the day earlier this summer when the eager 15-year-old called her saying he wanted to help her patients.

“I just couldn’t believe that anyone so young could achieve so much,” says Dupont. “I thought he was a college student!”
Shinozuka gets that a lot.

He’s matter-of-fact as he reviews his device with Dr. Dupont. “Pressure is applied, the alert is sounded,” says Shinozuka, squeezing the white, lima-bean sized sensor and triggering a musical chime on the iPhone in his other hand.

“Oh good. I like the alert. It’s much less obnoxious than the other alarms we use. They scare the residents down the hall,” says Dupont. In Irvine Cottages and in assisted living facilities across the country, many of the sensors used to detect when seniors have fallen or left an area have burdensome wires that must be clipped to clothing and loud alarms that frighten patients. Shinozuka’s device instead directly alerts the caregiver via a wireless signal.
That idea came from personal experience.

“My grandfather has lost the capability to eat by himself, to walk by himself, definitely to write and read. He can barely speak anymore. So it’s very hard,” says Shinozuka. “It’s also very hard for my aunt, his primary caregiver, since she’s the one who has to take care of him all the time.”

Shinozuka’s grandfather, Deming, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when Shinozuka was four years old and he regularly wanders out of bed at night. In the first six months Shinozuka attached his device, called the “Safe Wander,” to his grandfather’s sock, it detected all of Deming’s 437 known cases of wandering out of bed with no false alarms.

His mother, Maria Feng, remembers that breakthrough. “We were so proud, and we also felt the power of the invention. The power of the technology. It was such a great moment.”

Now, Shinozuka hopes to bring that “moment” to more families. “I hope that my device will ultimately reach out to the tens of millions of wandering patients around the world and also relieve the burdens on their caregivers,” he said.

His innovation has already won him a $50,000 prize and “Science in Action” award from Scientific American Magazine.
He will also compete in the Google Science Fair in September in California. But he’s looking farther into the future than that: he hopes to be a neuroscientist and specialize in engineering and computer science.

“I’d like to solve some of the mysteries of the brain, and invent tools to ultimately, I think, cure Alzheimer’s and other mental conditions that our aging population suffers from,” says Shinozuka.

By Chiara Sottile, Associate Producer at “Nightly News with Brian Williams.”

The NBC Nightly News team with Joe Fryer, Jacqueline Dupont and Kenneth Shinozuka filming the story at Irvine Cottages

The NBC Nightly News team with Joe Fryer, Jacqueline Dupont and Kenneth Shinozuka filming the story at Irvine Cottages


Dupont Addresses 2014 Graduates of UCI School of Biological Sciences

Dr. Jacqueline Dupont, Founder and CEO of Irvine Cottages, was the Commencement Speaker for the U.C. Irvine Francisco J. Ayala School of Biological Sciences graduation held on campus at the Bren Center on June 16, 2014. The audience of 6,500 included 1,500 graduates, their families, friends and distinguished faculty members from U.C. Irvine. Forty-two percent of the graduates were the first in their families to attend college.

Dupont’s speech included three major life lessons she learned on her road to success:

  1. Be a change maker. Be driven and detailed. Have the best manners in the room, and do not be on time . . . be early.
  2. It’s not all about you. Volunteer, give of your time and your heart to others not as fortunate as you. When you volunteer, you meet the best, brightest, and kindest people.
  3. Be humble. Be kind to others and treat everyone with dignity and respect.

Her full speech can be viewed below. Or you may read her speech by clicking here.


Megan House Wins 2014 Dupont JSerra Humanitarian Award

JSerra H.S. Senior, Megan House, Award Recipient

JSerra H.S. Senior, Megan House, Award Recipient

We are very pleased to announce Megan House, a Senior Center on the JSerra Catholic High School team, is the Student-Athlete recipient of the Dr. Jacqueline Dupont Humanitarian Award for the academic year 2013-2014 in recognition of her community service.

The Girl’s Basketball Program at JSerra Catholic High school emphasizes spiritual growth and development, academic and athletic excellence, along with sportsmanship. Their goal is to provide students opportunities to work in a team environment and test their physical and mental skills in a competitive arena. In dong so, student-athletes learn life-skills and are prepared for life on a spiritual, emotional and physical level. The team visits Irvine Cottages year-round bringing joy to our residents!

The award reads: “Humanitarian service is an integral part of the educational experience. To honor outstanding contributions and commitment to public service, and to encourage future ventures that address social needs within the community.”

Congratulations on your accomplishment, Megan!


Jacqueline Dupont Honored at 2014 Alzheimer’s Association “Creating Hope” Gala

Eydie and Dave MacInnis, Gala Co-chairs, Honoree Jacqueline Dupont, Jim McAleer, President & CEO of Alzheimer's Association Orange County (l to r)

Eydie and Dave MacInnis, Gala Co-chairs, Honoree Jacqueline Dupont, Jim McAleer, President & CEO of Alzheimer’s Association Orange County (l to r)

Jacqueline Dupont, founder of Irvine Cottages and Assured In-Home Care, was a 2014 Alzheimer’s Association Orange County Honoree for her continued work and advocacy on behalf older adults and the Alzheimer’s community. The “Creating Hope” Gala was held on March 1, 2014, at The Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

In addition to beautiful decor and delicious food, attendees were treated to an energetic live performance by American Idol Season 5 winner Taylor Hicks.

The wildly successful event raised over $525,000. Alzheimer’s is the fourth leading cause of death in Orange County, and sixth nationwide. The Alzheimer’s Association is the primary resource for families battling this disease with free services, including a 24/7 Helpline, support groups, research trials and educational materials. Proceeds from the Gala will go toward treatment, research and will enable AAOC to continue to provide its services at no cost.

Marc Carlson, Taylor Hicks, Jacqueline Dupont (l to r)

Marc Carlson, Taylor Hicks, Jacqueline Dupont (l to r)


Aileen Sherman Receives the Alzheimer’s Association
2013 Visionary Women Award

Honoree Aileen Sherman with husband, Neil

Honoree Aileen Sherman with husband, Neil

Congratulations to Aileen Sherman, our Family Services Director, for being honored as a 2013 Visionary Woman by the Alzheimer’s Association in the Administrative Professional category. This honor is for those who have served as models of commitment to compassionate care, which Aileen has done for Irvine Cottages for 17 years! The award states, “Aileen’s sensitivity, empathy and ability to instill a sense of hope distinguishes her and inspires others.” The Awards Luncheon took place on June 14th at the beautiful Rancho Las Lomas in Silverado Canyon. Click here to read the Orange County Register article about the event.

Our Staff Celebrating Visionary Award Honoree, Aileen Sherman

Our Staff Celebrating Visionary Award Honoree, Aileen Sherman


Corinne Bogle wins 2012-2013 Dr. Jacqueline Dupont Humanitarian Award

We are very happy to announce Corinne Bogle, a Junior Guard on the JSerra Catholic High School team, is the Student-Athlete recipient of the Dr. Jacqueline Dupont Humanitarian Award for the academic year 2012-2013.

The Girl’s Basketball Program at JSerra Catholic High school emphasizes spiritual growth and development, academic and athletic excellence, along with sportsmanship. Their goal is to provide students opportunities to work in a team environment and test their physical and mental skills in a competitive arena. In dong so, student-athletes learn life-skills and are prepared for life on a spiritual, emotional and physical level.

The award reads: “Humanitarian service is an integral part of the educational experience. To honor outstanding contributions and commitment to public service, and to encourage future ventures that address social needs within the community.”

Congratulations on this accomplishment, Corinne!


Noel de Guzman Receives the Alzheimer’s Association’s Professional Caregiver Award 2012

We are very proud to announce that Noel de Guzman, Caregiver at Irvine Cottage #8, received the Professional Caregiver Award at the Alzheimer’s Association’s 6th Annual Visionary Women’s Caregiver Luncheon, on September 28, 2012.

This award honors individuals who have served as models of commitment to compassionate care. Their sensitivity, empathy and ability to instill a sense of hope distinguishes them and inspires others. Noel’s hard work and dedication are greatly appreciated by our residents, their families and the entire staff of Irvine Cottages! In his acceptance speech, Noel shared this award with his wife and partner in caregiving, Generosa. Thank you for all you both do!!

 

Noel (right) and Generosa de Guzman at the Alzheimer’s Association 6th Annual Visionary Women’s Caregiver Luncheon, September 28, 2012


Ever since Irvine Cottages opened their doors and accepted residents in September 1996, the news media has reported multiple times about the wonderful care Irvine Cottages offers ~ from media outlets such as The Orange County Register, CNN, Dateline, CNBC, Fox, Orange Coast Magazine, Time Magazine and The Wall Street Journal.

One note-worthy news story focused on the owner, Jacqueline Dupont, and her fight to protect older adults with dementia by implementing her full-spectrum Camera Monitoring project.

This important eldercare program was objected to and rejected by some. Dr. Dupont, along with families from the Cottages, fought all the way to Sacramento to receive permission — a long fight that took from 1996 to 2000. In the end, and with much public support, the Cottages were allowed to have cameras in all rooms. At Irvine Cottages they espouse to protect their seniors from abuse and theft. Falls can be detected, as well as lost items found by reviewing the videotapes. Families give consent in writing for their loved ones to receive 24 hour camera monitoring, and also have the option to turn the cameras off at any time — although no one in 16 years has ever requested it.

Monitoring the cameras also protects the staff from false accusations, and is used for reinforcing training techniques taught. Many caregivers do not want to work for Irvine Cottages when they find out there are cameras recording them. Dr. Dupont then questions, “What do they have to hide?” Every employee must give their consent to be monitored 24 hours a day. The staff actually loves the cameras due to the protection they’re afforded, and the added benefit of allowing the administrative staff to see their great caregiving actions!

Currently all of the Cottages have camera monitoring systems. It is a win-win situation for everyone! No other eldercare facility in the United States has a camera system such as ours.

Please feel free to read the News Articles Page (link below) about Irvine Cottages. The recent items focus on the exceptional care and concern for older adults throughout the greater Orange County community, as well as those residing at the Cottages.

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