Don’t limit yourself when you want to do something, whatever it is. I’ve lived almost a century, and I sometimes wonder where it all went. So, any idea you have, don’t let anything stop you.
You won’t catch Frances Sharon taking the elevator. Even at 96, she insists on taking the stairs.
“Don’t limit yourself when you want to do something, whatever it is,” she said, “I’ve lived almost a century, and I sometimes wonder where it all went. So, any idea you have, don’t let anything stop you.”
That attitude has served Sharon well throughout her life, from raising a family, traveling the world working on cruise ships, helping run a family business, serving as a nature specialist at a day camp, writing and publishing poetry, to going back to school in her 70s to earn an art degree from Bridgewater State University in 1999.
Sharon graduated from Massasoit Community College with an associate degree in computer science. The goal was to continue with her education, but marriage, a family, and the need to earn a living became priorities.
When her two children got older, she explored the option of going back to school, but was discouraged from doing so.
“I was dissuaded, I was told I was too old, but I always wanted to go back. So, finally, one day I did,” Sharon said.
She took advantage of her age and the state’s senior citizen tuition waiver and discount program to cover the expenses at Bridgewater State.
What was it like being the oldest student in the classroom?
“I loved it,” Sharon said. “I loved being on campus with the young people and even made new friends.”
She admits there were some adjustments, like the time she walked into an art class to find a nude model sitting in the center of the classroom for students to draw that day.
“Coming from my generation, that was quite something to see, but, hey, it’s natural and I loved the experience,” Sharon said.
Writing poetry is something that’s always been a large part of her life. She has published multiple books and her work has also appeared in local newspapers.
“I tell people I write poems because it helps me find solutions,” Sharon said. She encourages others to do the same. “If something is bothering you, write it down. Stick it on the fridge. Look at it. If you can do something about it? Okay. If not, stop worrying.”
Until recently, the BSU alumna was living on her own, in her house in Randolph. Five months ago, she decided it was time to move into a retirement home, also located in Randolph.
Since moving in, she continues to stay busy by volunteering in the dining hall twice a week and has made plenty of new friends, including fellow resident and Bridgewater State’s oldest living alumna, 106-year-old Marie Rudd Thomas, ’38.
“She’s terrific,” Sharon said.
She hasn’t quite given up all her independence though, during the colder months Sharon still travels to Florida where she lives by herself in a condo.
It’s also where she gets to see her boyfriend, Elvin, whom she met more than a decade ago after losing her husband of 64 years.
“I’ve been very lucky,” Sharon said. “I thought I was done (with relationships) after my husband died, but it’s never too late to fall in love.”
If she could offer one piece of advice to today’s BSU students, she’d first tell them not to sweat the small stuff. If they are unclear on what career path they should pursue, she said there is always work to be found working with senior citizens.
“A good open field is geriatrics,” she said. “A lot of people don’t understand us as we get older, but many of us, we’re still going strong. More than anything, though, make sure you get that degree, no matter where your heart is leading you, or what your degree is in. That college degree does open doors.”
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