Aulene Ray, whom many of you may have been introduced to in our September “Better Living: Active Seniors” section, turned 100 on Sept. 29 and her friends and family members treated her to a surprise drive-by birthday parade.

Prior to the shutdown of the Northeast Senior Center, Ray attended the center on a daily basis. Friend and fellow center member Cynthia Nero organized the parade.

“She is such a lovely person with an amazing life, getting an education, at a time Black women didn’t attend college, to retiring at age 98. She deserves to be recognized,” said Nero.

Nero also touched on the challenges brought on by the center’s temporary closing. Social isolation for a senior citizen is the equivalent of smoking 16 cigarettes a day. Getting seniors out to the centers provides more than a place to “hang out,” they are vital to aging gracefully.

“The keys to successful aging are to keep moving, learning and connecting to each other” says Laurel Alkire, executive director of Senior Services of Wichita. “Seniors that are living alone come to their centers every day and consider our staff and fellow center members their family.”

That sense of family that prompted Cynthia to organize a drive-by parade for Aulene. “She is healthy but, because of her age, her family has been very protective of her.”

Aulene was joined at the celebration by her 102-year-old sister, Darnett, who made the trip from Kansas City to celebrate with her younger sister.

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