Elsa Brehm Hoffmann, 102
(Charlie Archambault for USN&WR)
Elsa Hoffmann never imagined living past 100. "I never told anyone my age until I was 90," she says. So two years ago, when she passed the milestone, she leased herself a Lincoln and threw herself a party she compares to "a huge wedding," with 180 people and a bower of orchids. (She recently figured she'd "better act my age" and turned the car in.) These days, the Hillsboro Beach, Fla., retiree's days are filled with luncheons, shopping, and bridge. She loves to cook, and she takes care of paying her own bills. And she's just back from a cruise, with fellow members of the Deerfield Country Club, to South America and the Caribbean. Her boarding card, the indicator of whether she was old enough to drink, couldn't fit three digits, so it ID'd her as a 2-year-old, although she was the oldest person on board. "That caused quite an uproar," she laughs.
Hoffmann remembers always being active, always getting together with other people, organizing parties, and concentrating on making other people happy. She took business classes after high school and worked for her father's bakery supply business. After marrying, she helped her husband with the bookkeeping at their roofing business in Westchester County, N.Y. While wintering in Florida, they opened a small seasonal resort and developed an apartment complex. They eventually retired there.
There have been bumps along the way: Her husband died, and she had a heart attack at age 68, which was treated with rest and medication (she says she's always conscious of her diet, though she believes in the occasional cocktail). Arthritis in her back has finally crimped her style somewhat. "I played golf until about six years ago," she says. In her 80s, four months after having both of her knees replaced, she "had the best golf game of my life." But her "golden years are like sparkling diamonds," she says. "Meeting people—it seems to be as if love is radiating," she adds. "It's a great feeling."