Brentwood woman's secret at 104: 'Just live a clean life'

Publish Date:

Tuesday, January 3, 2017 3:30 pm EST

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The Tennessean

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Margaret Austin has always been ahead of the trend.

She watched what she ate and has tried to stay active throughout her life. At 100 years old, she was even beating her granddaughters in Scrabble.

On Tuesday, Austin continued her trendsetting ways as she celebrated her 104th birthday at Brentwood's Brighton Gardens Senior Living Center.

"She's always active and always paid attention to what she ate," granddaughter Kathy Buntin said. "She was healthy before the healthy trend."

At 104, Austin is the oldest resident at Brighton Gardens, said the center's business manager, Martiza Lindsay-Rasnick. And for the occasion, her family wanted to be sure to wish her well. About a dozen residents and many other family members showed up to wish Austin a happy birthday, including her great-granddaughters and great-great-granddaughters.

Buntin and fellow granddaughter Karen Vaneldik said they have always been impressed with their grandmother's health and, especially, her brain power. At Austin's 100th birthday Buntin said, her grandmother used all seven letters for the first word she played in their Scrabble game. The word "spindle" put their grandmother on the path to yet another victory.

Four years later, it's a little more difficult for her to play Scrabble, Buntin said, but they don't doubt her expertise.

"She is one of the most independent people here," Buntin said. "Her memory is still there and she would be able to add the figures (in Scrabble) faster than me."

Austin first moved to Tennessee with her husband, Joda Austin, in 1959 from St. Louis, where she sold clothes for a department store. In Tennessee, the two retired to live on a trout farm near the town of Bucksnort in Hickman County. Every day, Vaneldik said, she was getting in some kind of exercise.

"She worked every day walking from the house down to the lakes, cleaning the fish, feeding the chickens," Vaneldik said. "That's how they stayed so healthy."

Austin's husband died at 89. Buntin said at first, her grandmother told her she didn't think she'd outlive her husband as long as she has, but it's been remarkable how she's aged.

The staff at Brighton Gardens agreed. It would be hard to peg Austin as 104 years old.

"She is doing great for 104," Lindsay-Rasnick said. "And she doesn't even look 104 either."

Austin's advice for making it to 104 doesn't include any secrets either.

"Just live a clean life. That's all you can expect," Austin said.

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