Iva Johnson modestly laughed at the idea of her upcoming birthday being remarkable.
“Not very, I don’t think so,” said Johnson, who on Sunday, May 6, celebrates her 105th birthday.
Most would disagree with the Sammamish resident — a mother of five, grandmother of nine, great grandmother of 17 and great-great grandmother of one.
Born the second youngest of seven children near the turn of the century in Tacoma, Iva has lived in Washington her entire life. She spent 44 years in Aberdeen until her husband, Gus, passed away July 13, 1967. Iva then moved to Mercer Island where she lived alone until her 100th birthday, when her youngest son John and daughter-in-law Barbara took her into their Sammamish home.
“She’s still very independent,” said John, 63. “It’s great.”
The key to longevity?
“I don’t know how I’ve come that far, to get this old,” said Iva, smiling. “I don’t have a secret.”
There’s history of a cousin living to 100 and grandparents both living into their late 90s, but there is also one daily ritual that certainly doesn’t hurt.
Every morning, fueled by half a banana, Iva gets up and rides an exercise bike for 20 minutes. She then spends 10 minutes with John doing special physical therapy exercises that include a set of 20 pushups on the wall. She closes the session with another 20 minutes on the bike.
Iva also frequently takes walks on the East Lake Sammamish Trail with John, who often has her count backwards from 100 by threes.
“That way her mind is really working hard on that process and the walking then really becomes second nature,” Barbara said.
The exercises have also done wonders for Iva’s memory. She still recalls the birthday of every single one of her children and grandchildren.
“I have a hard enough time remembering Barb’s birthday,” John joked. “She does very well, she has a great memory.”
The only major medical issues for Iva included knee replacement surgeries at 88 and 89. She is only on three medications, two of which John said are necessary.
Age has slightly limited the number of hobbies for Iva, who played golf into her early 90s and drove a car until 92, but she still stays quite busy.
She does her own laundry every Thursday, takes her clothes off the drying line every Friday and consistently loads the dishwasher and dusts in the living room. On top of making her own breakfast and lunch every day, she attends church weekly, takes care of her own plants and is a frequent watcher of the local news and Leave it to Beaver re-runs.
Iva will celebrate her birthday with 25 friends and family members this Sunday at home. Her favorite cake, German Chocolate, and ice cream are on the menu.
While it’s uncertain if she is the oldest Sammamish resident, there’s little question she’s among a special group. The latest United States Census Bureau numbers in 2010 said there were 71,991 centenarians, or people over 100, in the U.S.
Besse Cooper, 115, of Georgia, is currently recognized as the oldest living person in the world.
Iva smiled at the idea of matching that mark.
“I was telling her the other day that you only have 15 more years to go and you’ll be as old as Moses,” Barbara joked.