When you meet Albert Bornstein its hard to miss the twinkle in his eye. It’s the beginning of the sly smile or smirk that is about to creep up on his face.
The same twinkle seen in photos with friends and family at the party celebrating his 104 birthday is the can be seen sitting across from him in a quiet room. It isn’t because Bornstein is mocking you, no the centenarian has a natural mirth that he can’t wait to share and always finds a way to express it.
“I always enjoyed making people happy,” Bornstein said. “Whether it was singing, or telling a story.”
Telling a story can at times be difficult for Bornstein, who suffers from mild dementia, but the work he does at the Memory Care Living at Potomac Homes in Chester keeps him focused.
“You should see the word scramble and crossword books I’ve given to him,” said activities director Kiernan Foley. “He fills them up as fast as I can give them to him. Its why he is going to last forever. He is amazing.”
Memory Care Living is an alternative for Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients who choose not to live in a nursing facility. Set up like a dormitory of a little over a dozen rooms, the Chester location features a large common area and kitchen where staff and residents have meals, watch television and work on arts and crafts during the course of their day.
“Albert is very creative. He does great art when we do that and he helps me keep everyone entertained,” Foley said. “And he is very observant. He will say to me sometimes when I am harried trying to make something work, ‘you’re doing a good job.’”
According to Bornstein, he has always been an extrovert, and he said he remembers clearly when he found one of his first loves, singing.
“When I was younger I used to be a part of singing froup when we would go to Temple,” Bornstein said. “And ever since then it was always, ‘Albert, give us a song!’ And I always obliged them.”
Bornstein grew up in Newark and found a love greater than music when he found his bride Edith.
“She was 19 when we were married. And she lived to be 90,” Bornstein said.
And it is no mystery to Bornstein why their marriage was so successful.
“She came with me everywhere I went. On purchasing and buying trips,” said Bornstein, who used to buy merchandise for big companies like Bamgerger’s before opening his own shop in Newark. “It didn’t matter whether I traveled by car, or train or boat she came with me.”
The couple raised a family in Springfield and Bornstein retired to take care of an ailing Edith until she passed five years ago.
“I miss her. That I can’t help,” Bornstein said. “I feel we had a good length of time.”
It was after his wife’s death that Bornstein moved to Memory Care.
“This is like a home for me and its an easy place to live,” Bornstein said. “I am well taken care of, and I can do what I wish.”
Sometimes that includes taking in a ballgame (Yankees of course) or enjoying the weather outside. But it almost always involved singing.
“Singing is a part of me,” Bornstein said. “It’s a part of my make up.”
At his birthday bash this year, Bornstein was even given a microphone and allowed to choose songs from his own play list. His favorite is “I’ll see you in my dreams.”
“It’s a good song because you can infer what you wish from it,” Bornstein said.
His room now is adorned with photos, a Yankee jersey and his birthday hat and decorations.
"I had a lot more photo albums but my son has them now," Bornstein said. "He says to me 'Dad, you know where to find them.'"
And though the party hat his granddaughter gave him for his hundredth birthday party keeps getting additional years added to it in June, Bornstein wouldn’t change a thing about it.
“I turn 105 on June 8,” Bornstein said.
Foley and the rest of his surrogate family better start planning.