Senior Spotlight: 110-year-old Lucy Mirigian’s Secret to Aging and Happiness

In August, the Cayuga Community Connectors held a special birthday celebration for Lucy Mirigian.

“How does it feel to be 110?” District 11 Supervisor John Avalos asked while presenting a resolution from the Board of Supervisors declaring Aug. 15, 2016, Lucy Mirigian Day.

“It sure took me a long time to get here,” Mirigian said with a smile.

Mirigian, an Excelsior resident, may be the oldest person in San Francisco. Born Lucy Sarkissian in Turkey, she was only four years old when her family escaped the looming Armenian genocide to join a growing Armenian community in Fresno, Calif.

Despite the anti-Armenian prejudice in Fresno back then, she made a life, married and moved to the Bay Area.

In 1950, she and her husband purchased a home near Balboa High School where she still lives today.

“It was a new neighborhood, a wonderful neighborhood. Everything — schools, stores, transportation — was within walking distance. There were still a lot of empty lots going up the hill,” she said.

Mirigian’s daughter, Sonia Mirigian-Koujakian, delights in telling the story of how her mom purchased the house.

“She had been visiting friends in the neighborhood when she saw a real estate agent pounding a ‘for sale’ sign in the ground. She rushed over, gave him ten dollars as a deposit and told him ‘don’t sell it before tonight’. That night she returned with the rest of the eighteen hundred dollar deposit,” Mirigian-Koujakian said.

The house had a finished downstairs space, which mother and daughter dub the ‘social hall’. Mirigian immediately opened her new home to Armenian social clubs, sewing clubs, and visiting students and friends. “I bought the house to use it. If you’re not going to use it, you don’t need it,” Mirigian explained.

When her two children were young, Mirigian kept busy caring for her family, volunteering at the church and in the community, and cooking for the groups that met at the ‘social hall’.

“Even when she sat down, her hands were busy knitting, crocheting, and in her later years, beading,” Koujakian said.

Mirigian is particularly proud of having taught Armenian to new generations of Armenian youth, and connects the development of Armenian language schools in Fresno and San Francisco to her classes. “I always made my life interesting,” Mirigian said. “If I haven’t done something myself, I certainly put a match to many people.”

When her children entered college, Mirigian decided to travel, which meant organizing trips for AARP and other groups in exchange for free transportation and accommodations.

“I’ve been all over,” she said with pride, “Russia, Korea, Central America.”

In her senior years, she particularly enjoyed cruising, and organized several cruise trips. Mirigian took her last cruise when she was 105 — a birthday cruise on the Princess Line. Disembarking with a cold that became pneumonia, she agreed it was time to stop traveling.

In the early 2000s, Mirigian’s children decided that she could not continue to live alone. Sonia, and son-in-law, Jack Koujakian, moved into the house to be with her.

“We wanted to be where my mother had friends, so we moved out of our place in Alameda and in with mom.”

These days, when her daughter isn’t taking her out to lunch or Armenian events, Mirigian can be found seated at her kitchen table playing video poker or watching television, her walker close by. While she is still healthy and takes no medication, her vision and hearing are now quite limited.

“I’m happy with what I have,” Mirigian said. “It’s good to be healthy and alive.”

Special Events

Choir Performance: The I.T. Bookman Center senior choir will offer a free performance on Oct. 24 at noon. The center is located at 446 Randolph St. For more information, call (415) 586-8020.

Memory Workshops: Cayuga Community Connectors and the UCSF Center on Memory & Aging is offering a free workshop series on Memory and Aging. This six-session series addresses the difference between the changes that occur in healthy aging and those are symptomatic of pathological aging. The series started in September. The last three sessions will be offered from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. on Oct. 5, 19 and 26. Bethel Center, 2525 Alemany Blvd. or call Patti Spaniak (646) 409-7775.

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