There’s a growing curiosity in many circles about what helps a person to live an extra long life. Is it good exercise? What a person eats? How a person engages their mind? Is it genetics? There are several schools of thought, but for Mildred Killian it was as simple as being kind to others and baking cakes … a lot of cakes.

Mildred turned 105 years old on Jan. 8. She was born and raised in Appleton, Wisc., and later moved to Lansing with her husband, Peter. Mildred and Peter had five children together, and she now has 14 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren. Although Peter has been gone for several years and some of her family lives far away, Mildred enjoyed a big birthday party at Island City Assisted Living. Her children came, and of course there was cake.

Mildred was an avid cake baker before she moved to Island City. She’s long lost track of how many she made, but there were many. She made cakes for weddings, birthdays, and just for friends who wanted them. By her own account, as well as others’, the cakes were often extravagant and beautiful; ornate with flower designs and lots of frosting. Baking cakes was her hobby, her entertainment, and her joy.

“I only had two (cake) accidents. I would always keep extra flowers and frosting in case something happened, but I only had two accidents,” Mildred said with a laugh.

Although she doesn’t bake cakes anymore, Mildred still gets around well and prefers to stay as active as she can. She loves being outside, and going for walks. When the weather is nice enough to be outside, Mildred wishes she could get down on her knees and garden the way she used to. The slow environment of Island City doesn’t suit her restlessness, but she enjoys the people and the view.

Baking cakes and physical activity only do so much for a person, according to Mildred. Her joy for baking cakes only came because she was giving them to others. It’s the selflessness of an act that makes it truly meaningful.

“I was always helping people,” said Mildred. “The best part of baking cakes was when people would come and pick them up, and they were surprised.”

Mildred is grateful for the life she’s had. She’s had a loving and supportive family, and many fond memories that keep a smile on her face.

“I’ve had a nice life,” said Mildred about her longevity. “I’m doing something right! I’m trying and trying to figure out what it is.”

Desserts, family, and good memories. A life well lived really can come down to things as simple as good food, company, and experiences. One can only hope to be as jovial and thankful for life at 105. Mildred’s age and attitude are an example for everyone to be active and happy in the moment. If we have that, then tomorrow and the years that follow should be alright too.