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Super-Ager Shows Young Whippersnappers How To Get ‘Er Done

Flora Slade, Consumables, (right) gets a big hug from her daughter, Gena, who works in Accessories. Flora, 86, joined Andersen in 2020. She says working keeps her young.

When most of us are just rolling out of bed, Flora Slade has already clocked in and is processing EO gas ampoules on an assembly line at Andersen Sterilizers, a medical device manufacturer. It doesn’t matter to her that she’s 86 years young and working 45 hours per week. In fact, Flora plans to work for as long as humanly possible—even if that means into her 90s.

“I love this company,” shared Flora, who in her 70s enrolled in college and earned her associate’s degree in business. “I had the hardest time finding a job outside my home after my children left the nest. Had I known about Andersen, I would have come here much sooner.”

Flora, who lives in Burlington, North Carolina, is the mother of five—four daughters and one son. She has two grandchildren and one great-grandchild. After raising her children and then caring for her grandchildren, Flora tried to re-enter the workforce. It wasn’t easy interviewing; the rejections were difficult to process.

“I registered with a staffing agency, hoping they could help me find a job,” she said. “Every time I interviewed, they’d tell me, ‘We’ll let you know,’ but, of course, I’d never hear back. I surmised that it was because of my age. Eventually, my representative at the agency said that she thought Andersen Sterilizers would be a good fit for me.”

Flora is on the job at 6 a.m. each morning, long before most of us even get out of bed. She says she is a “workaholic” and loves to keep her hands busy.

Ethan Marshall, who oversees operations at Andersen, interviewed Flora.

“I explained to Ethan that I had been unable to secure a job because of my age,” Flora remembered. “I assured him that if he took a chance on me, he wouldn’t be disappointed. I told him, ‘I’m a workaholic, and I need to keep my hands busy. It keeps me out of trouble.’”

Ethan hired Flora on the spot. That was four years ago.

“Flora is a fast worker, but she never breaks a sweat,” shared Ethan. “She’s consistent and focuses on quality, yet she’s able to keep her peers entertained with lively and fun conversation at the same time. Flora sets a great example for us all.”

There are those times, however, when Flora finds herself questioning the younger generations and the lofty expectations they sometimes bring to the job.

“Andersen offers a great deal of flexibility to its employees,” said Flora, as she excitedly waved her arms in the air as if to add an exclamation mark to punctuate her comment. “Management understands that sometimes unexpected issues arise at home. They make adjustments to help them succeed in every area of life—at work and at home. Occasionally, someone will abuse this latitude. ‘This is a good place to work, I tell them. Work hard, be appreciative, and you’ll be rewarded.’”

Flora poses with her son, Russell, at the 2023 Andersen Holiday Gala.

Flora should know. Not far from 90, this isn’t her first rodeo.

Super-agers, a term coined by neurologist Marsel Mesulam, are made up of people like Flora—people who are decidedly young in mind despite an aging body. According to AARP, super-agers retain mental acuity right into old age. Super-agers seem to have a couple of things in common. Community is critical to their well-being, and they are determined to make meaningful contributions to society even through old age.

That couldn’t be truer for Flora. It seems she works as much for others as she does for herself.

“Encouraging others brings me joy,” shared Flora, who is no stranger to adversity having lost everything in a house fire two years ago and a daughter to congestive heart failure not long after. “Nothing is more rewarding than to see that I can have a meaningful impact on another person’s day.”

Flora’s daughter, Gena, works at Andersen in Accessories. She’s thankful for her mother’s giving nature.

“I love my mother,” said Gena. “She’s a caring person and thinks about others before she thinks about herself.”

Thinking back to that day when this resident super-ager was interviewed, Ethan is filled with gratitude.

“We are certainly blessed that Flora accepted our offer to join the Andersen Team.”

Want to be a super-ager, too? For more on cognitive super-agers, visit Northwestern Medicine and Four Habits of Super Agers or go to AARP and Celebrate What’s Right With Aging: Inside The Minds of Super Agers.