This 100-Year-Old Influencer Shares Her Secrets
Mildred Kirschenbaum has become a social media star and is happily offering the lessons of her ten decades
In August 2022, Gayle Kirschenbaum, 68, an Emmy-award-winning filmmaker, began posting videos of her mother Mildred on her TikTok and Instagram channels when Mildred was turning 99 years old. The New York-born Kirschenbaum (who recently celebrated her 100th birthday) became a viral sensation almost immediately. Her secret? Simply being herself and sharing what she has learned about life in the last ten decades.
It's All About Attitude
Mildred Kirschenbaum says that throughout her life she has been a positive person. "I don't sweat the small stuff," she explains. But she has noticed over the years that many people get frustrated by little injustices and minor inconveniences. "So many people carry the weight of the world in a negative way," explains Kirschenbaum. "They can't help themselves; they just have to complain."
"We would fight, but we would make up because what is the point of staying angry? I didn't want the negativity to build between us."
Kirschenbaum believes negativity ages people. She's seen peers and even people 20 years her junior brought down by their bad attitudes. She says, "People complain because they don't like their meal at a restaurant and my attitude is, 'Big deal! If you don't like your meal, order two desserts.' There is no need to be upset."
Kirschenbaum has similar advice for people who complain their kids never call them. "If they call you once a week, call them once a week and then you'll talk to them twice a week."
Don't Hold a Grudge
Kirschenbaum married her husband when she was 18 years old. "Back then, you had to get married if you wanted to have sex," says Kirschenbaum. "So, I got married."
Although she would describe her marriage as a happy one, she admits they fought every day.
"We were married for 60 years and ask anybody, they will say we argued all the time," says Kirschenbaum. "But we never went to bed angry. We would fight, but we would make up because what is the point of staying angry? I didn't want the negativity to build between us. In the end, I always knew that when I went to bed, I was lying next to my best friend."
Not Too Old to Enjoy Life
"Some people seem surprised that at 100 years old, I don't want to roll up and stop going out," says Kirschenbaum. "But why would I? Why would I be too old to do something I want to do?"
When asked if she plays pickleball, she laughs and says, "Pickleball? At my age, that would be cripple-ball!"
And there are many things Kirschenbaum wants to do. She loves to travel and just returned from an 18- day transatlantic cruise with her children to celebrate her birthday. She dabbles in the stock market and plays canasta and bridge. She likes to gamble and partake in happy hour.
"My usual drink is a vodka and tonic," says Kirschenbaum. "It's medicinal; the vodka is a natural disinfectant and the tonic relieves leg cramps."
She still likes to dress up and wear makeup. "I've always known how to put myself together," says Kirschenbaum. "Some people are color blind or don't know what trousers go with what blouse. If you don't know, you should ask someone. You can still put yourself together and look good even wearing sweatpants."
Limits But Not Limitations
For Kirschenbaum, it is about understanding her limits but not placing limitations on herself. She drives a car but only locally to the market or her club. "If I know I am going out late or a far distance, I ask someone else to drive," she explains, "I am not going to not go out, but I know my limits." When asked if she plays pickleball, she laughs and says, "Pickleball? At my age, that would be cripple-ball!"
Kirschenbaum's can-do attitude propelled her to agree to sing a duet with TikTok artist Jax. "I never heard of Jax, but my great-grandkids were so excited," says Kirschenbaum. "If she (Jax) asked me to ice skate, I'd have said, 'No, not in a million years!' But singing a song with her, I thought, 'Why can't I do that?' and it was a lot of fun."
"You are never too old to do things, but you must be proactive," she explains. "If you want to travel, you may need to get a wheelchair at the airport. When I was on the cruise, I called ahead to order a scooter to get around. So many people stopped me and asked, 'How did you get that scooter?' It's not hard; you have to advocate for yourself."
Another tip is not to let pride get in the way. "I'm not a proud person. I would never say, 'I wouldn't do this.' If I need a scooter to get around, I'll use a scooter. It's better than not going on the trip," says Kirschenbaum.
Getting Through Hard Times
While she loves life, she has gone through hard times. A mother of three, her son died after a battle with cancer. "Burying a child is the worst thing that can happen to a person. That kind of hurt never heals," says Kirschenbaum.
"Many widows have to downsize when their husbands die, but I could stay put and not disrupt the life I had built."
In 2006, she lost her husband. Kirschenbaum says, "Losing a spouse is hard in a different way; it changes your life." While she believes it is easier for women than men to live alone and take care of themselves, she admits being a widow changes your relationships. "People are nice at first, but after a while, married women don't want a single woman hanging around with them," she explains.
Fortunately, she didn't have to relocate when her husband died. "Instead of buying a big house when we moved to Florida, we bought a two-bedroom villa," she explains. "Many widows have to downsize when their husbands die, but I could stay put and not disrupt the life I had built.
Although she lives alone, Kirschenbaum says she doesn't feel alone. "I have a social life, my card games, my friends in the community," she says. "And I have my kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. They all have busy lives, as they should, but they call me and we can FaceTime. I visit them, they visit me and we travel together too." Kirschenbaum is also working on a book.
Ready to Listen
Asked why she thinks she became so famous at this age, Kirschenbaum explains, "You get up in years and people want to know, 'What is your secret? What can I do to be like you?'"
She likens it to a song on the radio. "It's on in the background, but you may not always stop to listen to the words. I've been here, being me, but now, at 100 years old, people are ready to pay attention to what I have to say."