Honoring ‘Ageless’ St. Louisans

Columnist Lois Caplan


Twenty years ago I wrote a column called “Creative Retirement” about a bunch of youngish guys who had enough financial resources to retire and spend their time playing golf and tennis, fishing, cycling and having fun.  Now comes a group of septuagenarians and octogenarians who put these people to shame with their active lives and community involvement.  These are men and women who have made amazing contributions both service-wise and money-wise in multiple areas of interest.  At 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14, 23 older adults over the age of 75 will be recognized by the non-profit St. Andrew’s Resources for Seniors System as it hosts its eighth annual “Ageless-Remarkable St. Louisans” gala at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel. Reservations at $175 per person for the dinner are available by calling 314-726-0111 or by visiting www.standrews1.com.

Among the 23 honorees are four from the Jewish community – Paul and Elissa Cahn, 84 and 78 respectively, 85-year-old Harris Frank, and Elaine Wolff, who will kill me for divulging that she is 83, though she still looks like a teenager. 

The Cahns, generous collectors and supporters of the arts, are also deeply involved with the Jewish Federation.  Paul, who was born in Germany, is the grandson of a silversmith, which may account for his passion for collecting English and American 17th and 18th century silver. The couple also has acquired a fabulous collection of South American textiles, significant enough to merit an exhibition at the St. Louis Art Museum.

Harris Frank is responsible for conceiving the idea for the Senior Olympics, a movement that now spans all 50 states and boasts 350,000 participants nationwide.  Harris was also instrumental in the formation of the OASIS Intergenerational Tutoring Program, which matches trained volunteers age 50 and older with students in grades kindergarten – fourth who need help developing reading and language skills.

Nearly 15 years ago, when Elaine Wolff was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, she vowed that it would not ruin her or her family’s lives. Small but mighty, Elaine has fought a battle brilliantly, knowing that exercise is basic to her well-being.  “I have a personal trainer five days a week for an hour a day, and I also dance with my ‘life performance coach.’ We do the tango, waltz and foxtrot, which are all wonderful for balance,” said Elaine, a medal-winning ballroom competitor.  Very committed to giving back to the community, she is a major supporter of the National Kidney Foundation and the American Diabetes Association.

“Ageless-Remarkable St. Louisans” is the primary fundraising event for St. Andrews and its charitable foundation, which provides housing and supportive services to low-income and at-risk seniors in the St. Louis area as well as extending financial aid to residents who have exhausted their resources.  Each year the organization serves over 5,000 people and provides more than $1.5 million in charitable care.  Mary Alice Ryan, President and CEO explained, “We chose the elders we are honoring this year because they personify our goals, and we applaud then for demonstrating that age is truly nothing more than a number. The honorees are defying the stereotypical idea that individuals fall into restful retirement as they grow older.”


WHEN RADIO STATION KFUO’S classical music station was sold and disappeared into cyberspace, I mourned its passing as if it were a member of my family. Actually I spent more time with KFUO than with my daughters and friends, as my radio was always on and tuned to 99.1. Like the prince rescuing the princess, St. Louis Public Radio, KWMU – 90.7 FM rescued daily classical music for us and I am eternally grateful.  It can be heard on your computer, so log on to KWMU’s home page and it will direct you how to reach it. If you are not computer savvy, you can listen to KWMU when it broadcasts live the Saturday night concerts of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.  

EVERY FEW YEARS I FEEL LIKE sharing a very personal statistic with you that annually grows larger and larger.  It’s 47, not my 47th birthday but the column’s. Honest, it was September 1963 that Alfred Fleishman called me for the Board of the then new Jewish Light and asked me to write a column. “Try it.  You might like it,” Al said. Boy, did I like it. Nearly five decades later, I am still at it.  The heroes, however, are all of you who provided me with such good stories over the years – by phone, written notes and now by email.  If you can keep it up, so can I. 

Reach me at [email protected].