‘A whole dif­fer­ent twist on ag­ing’

As 100th birth­day nears, Nilla Palmer says she’s a lucky 99-year-old

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Clare Dig­nan

NEW HAVEN — Nilla Palmer is cel­e­brat­ing her birth­day next month.

Sur­rounded by fam­ily and loved ones, what a party it will be as Palmer turns 100 Feb. 15. She’s been around through many na­tion-chang­ing events, in­clud­ing the Great De­pres­sion, WWII and the civil rights move­ment. She has taken in a cen­tury of life with pos­i­tiv­ity and hu­mil­ity.

Her fam­ily calls her a poet, so­cial jus­tice ad­vo­cate and in­spi­ra­tion to her friends, but Palmer doesn’t look at her­self as these things — just a lucky 99-year-old. “She puts a whole dif­fer­ent twist on ag­ing,” said daugh­ter-in­law Tracy Blan­ford, who helps take care of Palmer in their New Haven home. “She’s fiercely in­de­pen­dent, but op­ti­mistic and joy­ful. It’s so un­typ­i­cal of what peo­ple think of as some­one who’s as dis­abled as she is. It’s hum­bling to help take care of her and gives you a per­spec­tive that is hope­ful.”

Palmer’s vi­sion is gone and much of her hear­ing, too, but she hasn’t taken it that way. In a poem de­scrib­ing her­self she wrote, “In the later years I’ve been granted hear­ing and vi­sion im­pair­ment. For this I’ve traded aching and di­etary re­stric­tions. Good deal, for who of us can press a but­ton and make the noise go away? Who can make the hot­shot and the me­nial look alike? All other dis­trac­tions fade. If I’m dif­fi­cult to live with, I say ‘tough cook­ies!’”

“I don’t know if it’s poetry or not,” Palmer said. “I call it glimpses that dash by your head and you re­mem­ber them. Im­pres­sions is what it is. The glimpses are the im­pres­sions you catch from the peo­ple that you meet and the ex­pe­ri­ences that you have.”

Palmer has many of these glimpses col­lected in a book her grand­daugh­ter

Arnold Gold / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Nilla Palmer, born in 1919, shows off a re­cruit­ing poster from the U.S. Dept. of La­bor from World War II — the im­pe­tus for a ca­reer in Washington, D.C. — dur­ing an in­ter­view at her home in New Haven on Thurs­day.

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