Florida woman, 99, goes viral on Instagram after giving this piece of life advice
YAHOO NEWS by Gretchen Eichenberg June 20, 2023 An almost centenarian who lives alone, still drives, pays her bills online, texts loved ones on her iPhone and never misses happy hour, is doling out advice for living a long and active life in a series of positive yet feisty videos on TikTok and Instagram.
"You’ve got to enjoy life," Mildred Kirschenbaum, 99, of Boca Raton, Florida, told Fox News Digital.
"You’re only walking through it once," she added. "If you're up there in years, do yourself — not your children, not your friends, not your world — yourself, a favor: Enjoy everything. Don't sit home and moan and groan and say, ‘all I do is walk to the refrigerator.’ Do something."
For Kirschenbaum, she said attitude is everything. She described this notion in a video she recorded of herself which was posted on Instagram by her daughter on May 30. The post garnered 1.2 million views, and Kirschenbaum does not appear to let anyone off the hook.
"I want to share a thought about attitude," she tells viewers in the video.
"In August, I will be 100 years old. I have friends that are 20 years younger, 15 years younger — and their attitudes are going to cause them not to survive to my age."
She explains that some people she knows complain about the food they are served or that their children don’t call them enough — but said they have to turn around their negative way of thinking.
"If the food isn’t quite right, so have an extra dessert," Kirschenbaum told Fox News Digital.
"If you only hear from your children once a week, that’s fine. If they call you once a week, then call them once a week and be grateful they are enjoying life. Look at the positive side of life. I think that’s what got me this far," she added.
Kirschenbaum said her advice is practical and she does not necessarily think her wisdom comes with age.
"If you're not smart when you're young, you only get dumber," she said. "Does that make sense?"
At 99, Kirschenbaum lives on her own, by choice, she said. She has a son living in Orlando, Florida, and a daughter who lives in New York.
Her daughter, Gayle Kirschenbaum, 60, a writer and Emmy award-winning filmmaker, encouraged her mother to record her nuggets of wisdom, which she then started sharing on her own social media about a year ago.
"When we were celebrating her 99th last August on a cruise, I shot this video of her and it got a lot of attention," Gayle Kirschenbaum told Fox News Digital.
"That is when I decided to focus my account on her and our relationship and tips for longevity and forgiveness," Gayle Kirschenbaum added.
In the video, Mildred Kirschenbaum expresses her gratitude for having a family that loves and cares for her.
"I cannot believe it, that I’m 99 and still have my marbles," she told viewers. "I’m the luckiest woman in the world that I have a family who, I think, adores me. I’m not sure. But even if they don’t, they call, they check on me. And there are so many people who don’t hear from their children or their family, so I’m very lucky."
But Kirschenbaum’s relationship with her daughter was apparently not always so rosy. "I was the youngest of three," Gayle Kirschenbaum said. "I had two older brothers, and my mother was admittedly now, finally at 99, very harsh and abusive with me. I left home pretty young."
Gayle Kirshenbaum said that in the midst of career success, she would go home and face harsh criticism and bullying by her mother — from her weight to her hair to her nose.
Gayle Kirshenbaum even made a short film called "My Nose" (2007), which she said is the story of her mother’s relentless campaign to get her to have a nose job. She never did, she said.
That film landed Gayle Kirshenbaum on the cover of the Washington Post with an article that stated: "If you have a mother like Gayle Kirschenbaum [has], you better get yourself into psychoanalysis."
Her mother’s response: "Wow, great. Bad press is better than no press. I’m on the cover of the Washington Post."
"I couldn't keep on going like this, you know. It was affecting every aspect of my life," Gayle Kirshenbaum said of her relationship with her mom.
"I realized I [had] to forgive my mother, and I just didn't know how I was going to do it. So, I went on a journey to do it, and I made a movie," she added.
Gayle said she asked her mother if she would be willing to work on their relationship in front of the camera.
"I kind of knew she’d say, ‘Yes,’" Gayle said. "How many people have a mother who would be willing to put themselves out there?"
That began the shooting of Gayle Kirshenbaum's next film "Look at Us Now, Mother" (2015) — and also the healing and forgiveness that allowed the mother-and-daughter duo to enjoy the relationship they have today.
Due to the documentary, Gayle Kirshenbaum was asked to film a Ted Talk (2017) on forgiveness where she reveals how she found the empathy to understand that the way her mother treated her was actually rooted in her own trauma.
Gayle Kirshenbaum said that in her quest to understand her mother, she also got to see another side of her through letters she wrote to her father during World War II.
"In telling the story, I [had] to go back to my parents and find out, what made you who you are today," she explained.
"What happened in your youth? My father's being shipped to the South Pacific and the letters that she wrote him … I guess there were many more, but only a handful apparently were saved, which I'm grateful to have. Her letters are unbelievable. It's incredible writing. And what was she, 17? But brilliant, brilliant writing."
Forgiveness is a concept that Kirschenbaum addresses in a video post with her daughter, as she approaches her 100th birthday.
"At this point in my life, I’m going on 100," she says in the video. "When I go to bed, I may not wake up again."
"I’m sorry," she tells her daughter in the video. "I hope you forgive me. But I feel you did because we talked to each other. So now, I’m trying to forgive myself."
In another video about forgiveness, Kirschenbaum describes how it has allowed her and her daughter to now be traveling companions and best friends.
"Why carry an unnecessary burden," Kirschenbaum told Fox News Digital.
"Why wake up in the morning and, even though you don't think about it, you're angry at somebody? They don't deserve your anger," she added. "If they're not important to you, just shelve it. If they're important to you, reach out."
Some of Kirschenbaum’s videos appear on the lighter side and are informational — like one about getting tech-savvy, no matter your age.
"We live in a computer world," Kirschenaum said. "Either you go with the flow or you fall off the train. This is a tech world. If you have a computer and you don't know how to use it, there’s a book called 'Computers for Dummies.' Don’t say, ‘I don’t know how to retrieve emails.’ There’s no such thing as, ‘I don’t know.’"
Kirschenbaum has an iPad, an iPhone and a Microsoft computer to help her stay in touch with people, get information she needs, play an occasional game of Words With Friends, film her videos, pay her bills and do her banking.
"The only checks I mail are birthday gifts," Kirschenbaum said. "Everything else is online. Learn how to do the basic, simple things. I'm not asking you to do [anything] sophisticated. Simple."
Other topics Kirschenbaum touches on in her videos are navigating the road at 99, why she chooses to live alone, the safest way to get up if you fall at home and directions for her chicken soup recipe which was requested over and over.
"The very best advice I could give is that a cook follows a recipe and a chef tastes the food," Kirschenbaum said.
"Taste it. If you don't have enough salt, add it. Don't be afraid to improvise."
One key to longevity, Kirschenbaum said, is getting out and about — being social.
She enjoys playing bridge or canasta to keep her mind sharp and stay connected with others.
But one of her favorite ways to be social is attending happy hour at her community clubhouse or a favorite local establishment.
"I do enjoy happy hour," Kirschenbaum said, adding that there’s usually no one there even close to her age but that's "no problem whatsoever."
To celebrate her 100th birthday, Kirschenbaum is traveling to Orlando for a special family dinner — at which she said she will be focusing on relationships.
"I'm going to send out a note that I want no material gifts," Kirschenbaum said.
"The biggest gift they could give me is when they come to my birthday party, they all talk to each other. That's just the way I feel, honestly."