Lois Arbanas of Arlington Heights is on the verge of joining a select club: "supercentenarians," or people 110 years or older.
Arbanas' 110th birthday is Dec. 1.
She and her family -- including daughters Anne Feichter of Elk Grove Village and Marybeth Shearron of Gurnee -- will celebrate the milestone with a cake and party with other residents of The Moorings of Arlington Heights, where she has lived since 1991 and still has her own apartment.
"It's impressive how engaged she still is. She still loves a party," says Lisa Vandermark, executive director of the retirement community.
According to the New England Centenarian Study, conducted by Boston University's School of Medicine, there are only 60-70 supercentenarians in the United States.
Dr. Thomas Perls, the study's director, said supercentenarians occur at the rate of just one per 5 million people.
Admittedly, Arbanas comes from hearty stock. She grew up on a farm in northern Michigan, as one of eight children, including seven girls. Her mother lived until she was 96 and most of her six sisters lived until their mid-90s.
Arbanas is a model for several of the findings discovered by the New England Centenarian Study. She has good genetics, maintained a healthy lifestyle and was an older mother.
That's right. New England researchers discovered that women who had given birth to a child after the age of 40 had four times greater odds of being a centenarian. Arbanas was 43 when she had her second daughter, Shearron.
Arbanas left the farm as soon as she could, heading to Detroit, where she met her husband, Joseph. As a young lawyer he worked for the government, moving the family to Washington for the first six years of their marriage. They later settled in Chicago, where he was the regional counsel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The couple raised their two daughters in Chicago, where Arbanas stayed home and volunteered as a Girl Scout leader, at their local hospital and their church. She also recorded books for the blind and drove a bus for disabled children.
"She was always doing things for others," Feichter said.
In thinking about her secret to a long life, Arbanas cites two reasons: "Exercise and eating right."
Feichter remembers back in the 1950s her mother exercised in front of the TV to the program "Your Figure, Ladies," hosted by Paul Fogarty on WGN.
In later years, she enjoyed playing golf and bridge and traveling extensively with her husband. They retired to Rancho Bernardo, California, before moving to The Moorings one year after it opened.
Within two years, Joe Arbanas died. Lois stayed active, however, starting a flower-arranging class and a duplicate bridge club, as well as maintaining a garden on the Moorings grounds.
These days she spends much of her time in her apartment, where she lives with a full-time caregiver, but she occasionally will attend an entertainment presentation. Just last year, she attended the groundbreaking and reception for The Mooring's expansion.
Mostly, she enjoys having lunch with her daughters, who take turns visiting her, and beating them in dominoes. At night, she still watches TV, especially the news, golf, football and "Dancing with the Stars."