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May 15. 2014 9:44PM

Salem honors its senior 'Platinum Club'

Ingram Senior Center members Roland Smith and Fred Archembald enjoyed refreshments and live Irish music during Wednesday’s Platinum Club Tea, a celebration honoring the center’s eldest members. (APRIL GUILMET/Union Leader Correspondent)

SALEM — Though she celebrated her 90th birthday earlier this spring, Mary Sapienza said she has no intention of slowing down anytime soon.

The longtime Salem resident, one of 40 or so guests at Wednesday’s Platinum Club Tea event, admitted that life hasn’t always been easy, but every moment has been worthwhile.

“You just have to take each day as it comes,” Sapienza said. “You have to do the best you can.”

Geared toward the most senior members of the Ingram Senior Center, the Platinum Tea was the first event of its kind for the Salem community, senior services director Patti Drelick said.

Drelick said she’s hoping the tea will become an annual May tradition to coincide with Older Americans Month, with the potential for a second event to take place around Thanksgiving.

“We have members of different ages, so we try to offer something for everyone,” she said. “This is something I’ve been thinking about for quite a few years.”

The Ingram Senior Center has more than 200 members in their 90s, and at least two that are 100 or older.

About 23 nonagenarians and centenarians attended Wednesday’s tea, with some of them bringing a friend along.

The afternoon featured refreshments, a complementary photo of each guest and live entertainment by Irish singer Paul Carroll, who livened up the crowd with his colorful anecdotes, including his chance meeting with actress Maureen O’Hara.

Many of the day’s guests are regular visitors to the senior center.

Violet Jessel, 90, taught yoga classes at the center for many years. These days the Haverhill, Mass., resident prefers to be a student rather than a teacher, but she still hasn’t lost her Zen-ful approach to life.

“Yoga and meditation helps quite a lot,” said Jessel, who attended the party with one of her former students, Marilyn Noble.

At 97, Ruth Bourdarlais is an active participant of the center’s weekly line-dancing program.

The Lewiston, Maine, native moved to Salem in 1941.

“You’ve got to stay active,” Bourdarlais said. “That, and keep your brain going.”

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