On November 19, 1996, Dr. Elinor Downs moved into an independent living apartment at Springhouse. Eighteen years later, she resides in the same unit and can claim that she is both the oldest resident in independent living as well as the first resident in the community, moving in only seven days after Springhouse opened.
Elinor, affectionately known as “Fuzzy”, (a childhood name given to her by her family because of her naturally curly and fuzzy hair) turned 103 years old in September, 2014 but does not believe being 103 is any kind of an accomplishment. Fuzzy has always led an active and adventurous lifestyle, and has never let her gender or age scare her away from trying something new. In 1933, Fuzzy graduated from Smith College where she majored in biology. Intrigued by the idea of medicine, but unsure what being a doctor actually meant, she applied to Johns Hopkins University for medical school and was accepted. She was one of five women in her graduating class of approximately 75 students. This was the start of a very interesting life and career for Dr. Downs.
Fuzzy focused her medical career on pediatrics. She and her husband had a small medical practice in Litchfield, Connecticut. With two small children to care for after her husband died suddenly during the war, Fuzzy made the best of all situations and allowed no room for failure in her life.
In 1949, Fuzzy began a two year term with the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. She worked in the Maternal and Child Health Division and returned to the United States after her term so that her children could be raised in America. This experience inspired Fuzzy to obtain her Master’s in Public Health from Columbia University. She then worked at Columbia University, teaching, conducting research and working at the clinic until she decided to retire and move to Boston at the age of 70.
Over the next fifteen years, Fuzzy took on a new passion; archeology. This thirst for more knowledge stemmed from finding arrow heads while growing up at her family beach house in Maine. She then proceeded to take archeology courses at Harvard University and MIT, totaling 43 credits–all of which she received straight A’s. Once again, she took advantage of new learning opportunities and was not afraid of failure.
At 103 years young, Fuzzy has two children, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. She believes the secret to living is to learn how to give things up along the way, and then learn to put something new in its place. Her newest endeavor is mastering the iPad.