When Charles Carroll walked through the waiting room of Delray Medical Center on Thursday, people whispered.
“Unbelievable,” one person said.
Another quickly replied: “What’s his secret?”
They’d overheard a nurse congratulate Carroll, whose birthday was Saturday, on turning 103 years old while he wheeled around an empty wheelchair in his teal hospital scrubs. Carroll, a volunteer at the hospital for nine years, was later surprised by a crowd in the cafeteria with cake and balloons.
“If we do this again next year, we’ll need a bigger room,” he teased as he walked through the door.
Beloved by patients, doctors and nurses alike, Carroll volunteers twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the hospital by wheeling patients to and from their rooms and assisting with bookkeeping. Despite a bout with colon cancer and a heart attack nine years ago — which inspired him to volunteer at the hospital — Carroll is fit and healthy enough to make his way around.
When patients learn his age, they’re awestruck, said Becky McCoy, director of volunteers at the medical center.
“They want to jump out of the wheelchair and wheel him around,” she joked. “They’re just amazed, as we all are.”
Caroll’s daughter, Judith Stern, one of his two children and two grandchildren, also joined in the celebration. Carroll has an aide, Stern said, but is able to get around independently and loves his work at the hospital.
“It gives him purpose,” Stern said. “It’s wonderful and he loves it. We all need a purpose at that age.”
And during his celebration, Carroll naturally fielded several questions burning through everyone’s minds. What are the secrets to living long and healthy?
Here are his tips:
» Do nothing in excess. “I don’t drink in excess. I don’t eat in excess. I try to have good health habits,” Carroll said.
Carroll stays on a fairly strict diet, Stern said, although he did down a decent-sized piece of birthday cake on Wednesday.
» Listen to your body to stay healthy. Much of Carroll’s health care is holistic, Stern noted. She prefers he avoid prescription medication when possible and noticed “incredible” improvements in his health following his heart attack.
Carroll spent nearly a month at Delray Medical Center recuperating from the ailment nine years ago. The visit inspired him to come back and brighten patients’ days.
» Laugh often. Carroll is constantly cracking jokes with fellow volunteers, nurses, doctors and patients. During the interview with The Palm Beach Post, he joked that he was mostly glad he still had his hair.
“He’s truly a delight to work with,” McCoy said.
» Be active and athletic while you’re young. Growing up, Carroll played hockey, baseball and golf. Carroll is a retired army officer and a former third baseman for the University of Massachusetts baseball team.
“Of course now he can’t play sports, so he just watches them on TV,” Stern said.
» Spend time with family. Carroll attributes his longevity first to his wife, who died in 2014 at the age of 93. “I had a lovely wife,” he said, when asked about his secret to living long.
» Believe in luck. “There’s a lot of luck involved in it too,” he said. “There were a lot of people in this hospital that helped me out. I had certain problems. I never doubted that it would still work out. And here I am.”