Those over 90 are the fastest-growing segment of the population. By 2050, 10 percent of all senior citizens will be either a nonagenarian or a centenarian, the Census Bureau forecasts.
Of course, physical or cognitive impairments, or both, enfeeble many in this age group. The most fortunate are like the fiercely independent Hodges, whose biggest complaint is a bothersome knee.
Look around and you’ll find people in their 90s living in their own homes, driving, volunteering, serving their communities and churches – even continuing in their professions. Hodges, who walks unaided and tools around in a 25-year-old Buick Roadmaster wagon with oxidized paint and a GRAMPIE vanity plate, does all of those things.
What she has no plans to do is stop.
“I want to leave this Earth with my boots on,” Hodges said. “I want to keep working. It’s the love of my life, other than my husband, who was a great guy.”
The former Kathryn Appley grew up in Emerson and graduated from Westwood High School in 1937. She had to wait till the following year, after her 18th birthday, to begin the nursing program at Hackensack Hospital.
“Crazy, isn’t it?” she said, laughing. “I always wanted to be a nurse, and I’ve always been one!”
She finished nursing school in 1941, months before Pearl Harbor. The following year, she married her high school sweetheart, Donald Hodges. The couple settled in Westwood.
On her first job, Hodges performed physicals on employees of a medical laboratory. After taking a few years off when her two sons were little, she became a nurse for Westwood. She also started as a Westwood poll worker. Last Nov. 8, her 55th general election, she rose before sunrise and put in a 15-hour day as the judge at her district’s polling place.
Hodges has been Emerson’s public health nurse – a part-time post that involves health screenings, education and prevention – since 1967. Her cheerful office is located in the senior center. Most who come to see her, for a blood pressure check or for the advice of a seasoned and accessible nurse, are elderly.
“They talk about this little pain, that little pain. Maybe I can be of some help to them,” Hodges said. “You have to have a love of people and a real desire to keep them well, so they be active citizens and do their own thing.”
How unusual is Kay Hodges?
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