A crisp winter day, and Mike Lenase is bundled up for his daily constitution. He walks three kilometers every day. A good distance for a young man, but Mike is 105. “Walking is my best way to keep young. If you want to be young, you gotta think young,” he says.

When he’s not strolling outside, you’ll see him several times a week walking the halls at Notre-Dame de la Merci Hospital, in Cartierville. He started coming here five-and-a-half years ago, after his wife passed away, brightening the day of elderly residents far younger than himself. He stops to chat with one woman in Italian, pouring a glass of water for her, before moving on. “I’m trying to encourage other people, because some people think once they reach their retirement, they’re old. You’re never old.”

Mike was born in southern Italy in 1907, in the town of Guglionesi, into a family of 13 children. At the age of 10, his family left Italy behind, seeking opportunity in Montreal. They boarded a ship for the three-week journey across the Atlantic, during World War One. “We were escorted by a submarine until at a certain point there was no more danger.” They arrived in Canada as strangers to the language and culture of the land.

“When I first arrived here, I wanted to go to French school,” he says. “But at that time they didn’t accept me. I was an immigrant and all that.” So, he went to school in English, and learned French on his own. Mike got a grade six education before quitting school. His only regret in life is that he didn’t go further.

One of the highlights of his long life was being a contestant on the Quebec game show Le Banquier, where he won some money and a trip to Italy. So, at the age of 102, he crossed the Atlantic once again – the first time in ninety-two years – but this time by plane. Mike says when his feet hit the ground, he felt “at home”. His visit made headlines in Italy and Montreal, and he was treated like royalty, meeting the Mayor of Guglionesi and put up in the finest hotel.

Mike has lived a lot of life in 105 years.

His first job was at an imported food company, when he was barely a teen. “I started to work over there at 8 cents an hour. We did sixty hours for four dollars and eighty cents.” He worked hard, eventually opening his own hat repair business – everyone wore hats back then – and bought his first car in 1928. “I had a T-Ford, at that time. There were no windows… nothing. You had to start the car by cranking it and if you weren’t careful you’d probably get a kick back. But at that time, it was good enough for me.”

Mike can’t say for sure what’s allowed him to live so long. But he has a few ideas including his daily walks. There’s also genetics. Two of his sisters lived to be 101 and 104. Then, there’s the glass of wine he has every day over dinner with his daughter and grandson, with whom he lives. But, Mike says the real secret is to think positively, and embrace every moment as though it’s the last.

If Mike has his way, that is still a long way off.

“My intention is to live as long as possible, because even though a hundred years seems like a long time, I don’t think so.”

Related Posts