‘A whole different twist on aging’
As 100th birthday nears, Nilla Palmer says she’s a lucky 99-year-old
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
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.