Superaging: Living long and well
Since turning 102 in 2016, Mrs. Smith has been a member of a select group being studied at Northwestern University’s Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease. These “superagers” are elders with the memory abilities of people decades younger. As she reminds people, she only stopped driving at 103, and that was due to arm strength, not mental ability.
In her second century, Mrs. Smith has garnerned much media attention. In 2017, she was introduced by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the city's Senior Fest. She was also the focus of a Chicago Tribune article on how social relationships may help support better aging outcomes. In the accompanying video, Mrs. Smith deftly selects and strings together beads for a necklace while narrating her biography.
A year later, in September 2018, Mrs. Renfrow Smith was interviewed by Maria Shriver for a Today Show segment on superaging. This video gives a good glimpse into her daily routine of baking, reading, and maintaining a positive outlook on life. Eager to encourage others to live well, at 104 Mrs. Renfrow Smith keynoted a 2019 “Success for Women 50+ Conference.”
Participation in the superaging study requires the donation of one’s brain for research after death. With her characteristic generosity, Mrs. Renfrow Smith describes this contribution as “the best degree I would ever get if I found out that when they examine my brain, they found out what was going on. See that. See, that’s why I think that’s good…. And you say, I won’t know about it, but somebody will and if somebody gets help that will be worth anything to know that this made an advancement in their life.”