Somewhat of a celebrity of sorts, some of you may remember one of my favorite Floridian friends, Elsa Hoffmann, 102, from her star role on the Barbara Walters special, How to Live to 150.  If not, she’s definitely a special centenarian you’ll never forget.

When I first met Elsa, I couldn’t believe she was 102. She definitely had “it” – that special something — vibrancy, vitality, and a love of life that was infectious. But beyond that, Elsa was a pure delight and a true inspiration for living life with gusto, regardless of whatever age we are.

Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of this new longevity we’re experiencing today is the inability to categorize what a person should look like or be doing based upon their chronological age. We’ve added 30 years to our life expectancy over the last century – increasing the average life span from 47 years to 78. So should we not expect that aging is changing and how one ages, looks, and feels, is changing too?

In many ways, I believe we are experiencing a transformational time that’s changing our conception of aging – which frankly, is great news.  With much of the research supporting the notion that we control more of our aging process than some may want to believe, for those who do believe that and take the time and effort to implement these strategies into their lives, should we not be surprised with the results?

Elsa always lived a healthy life — never smoked, had an occasional social drink, maintained the same weight she’d been most of her life by eating right and never overeating, got regular exercise, kept her brain busy, had wonderful relations with friends and family, gave back by volunteering, and had a perpetually positive outlook that helped manage stress – which can lead to a number of health problems if not controlled.

Like many centenarians, Elsa never expected to live this long. Both her parents died in their 80s and she said her grandparents only lived till their mid-70s.  So as Elsa kept passing age markers other family members had never seen, she just kept living the life she always had and believed that contributed to her longevity.

“No one in my family ever reached 90, but I just keep going and now, 100 seems almost normal today … it’s no big deal,” Elsa shared.

But turning 100 was a big deal when it happened, as Elsa celebrated with a gala because this gal loves a party!

“Oh it was a lovely affair,” Elsa remembered. “We had all the special touches I love – gold embossed invitations, matching cream and white flowers and linens, gold and silver balloons – I love making people happy and showing them a good time!” Elsa laughed.

But Elsa also made herself a little happy too, with a unique birthday present that in all honesty, got a much bigger reaction from others than she even got herself.

“I bought myself a brand new car for my 100th birthday,” Elsa remembered. “A sporty Lincoln, in metallic purple – because it’s a little different, just like me!”

While she never imagined there would be so much interest in her purchase, Elsa said it became big local news with pictures in the paper and she was even on the TV news. And then when she heard from friends across the country that said they’d seen her on TV too, Elsa realized that the story had gone nationwide!

“I guess not many 100-year olds go out and buy new cars for their birthdays!” Elsa laughed.

It certainly takes a lot of optimism to buy a new car for your 100th birthday – and a lot of chutzpah to drive it – obviously Elsa had plenty of both!

While there was only one Elsa Hoffmann on the planet, she did her best to live life to the fullest and it’s a tribute to her that her story still inspires others to do the same.

What’s age got to do with that?

One of my favorite friends, Elsa Hoffmann, 102, was as vibrant and full of life as people half her age! She believed being active, staying interested in life and trying new things was the key to her vitality.