It was three years after Anna Stoehr was born in 1900 that the Wright Brothers piloted the first powered airplane. The supercentenarian, who is the oldest Minnesotan and one of the oldest living people in the world, has witnessed tremendous changes, from World Wars to the Great Depression and, after women’s suffrage, the right to vote.
As she nears her 114th birthday on Oct. 15, Stoehr is learning to use an iPad, where she enjoys FaceTime video chats and viewing photographs. Because she uses a hearing aid, she feels that “it’s easier to communicate using an iPad because you can see people’s faces and understand them more clearly.”
Many of those chats are with her 85-year-old son Harlan, who says, “My mother was always curious about things.”
Born of German immigrant parents as the second of 11 children, at birth Stoehr was frail and not expected to live. She thrived on farms in Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota and Minnesota by staying active and independent.
After her husband’s death in 1998, she lived alone on their farm until age 112 ½, when she moved to a Plainview, Minnesota, independent living facility, where she still lights up a room with conversation. The best modern convenience? “Electricity. Because it gave us lights and water in the house.” On voting for presidents: “Only one of my men got elected: Dwight Eisenhower.”
The idea for the iPad came about when Harlan upgraded from a flip phone to a smartphone so he could access his email and text his grandchildren. Speaking with Joseph Ramirez from authorized Verizon Wireless retailer Wireless Zone, he mentioned his mother was nearly 114 and lived more than two hours away.
Harlan shared a story of Stoehr talking to her grandson and his family via Skype when they were overseas right from the comfort of her kitchen table. Coupled with the fact that Harlan’s wife Marlene had an iPad, Ramirez suggested trialing the device with Stoehr.
“I asked her if she would be interested in an iPad,” Harlan relates. “She asked, ‘What’s that? Could I take pictures with it?”
Wireless Zone agreed to loan Stoehr the iPad and provide free service and training leading up to her next birthday. “She wants to hurry and learn how to call out so she needn’t wait for people to call in,” says Harlan.
Soon, the supercentenarian will celebrate her 114th birthday during two celebrations with more than 150 relatives and friends, and a cake with the correct number of candles – an annual tradition since she turned 98. Her three surviving children will be there, as well as 12 of her 25 grandchildren.
Stoehr’s optimistic spirit and remarkable mind sustain her. “My mother always thought that if things aren’t going well today they will be better tomorrow,” Harlan says.
Watch Anna Stoehr’s story above to learn more about her life and experiences with her new iPad.
Update: It never ceases to amaze us that the desire to learn is an attribute that, for some people, never fades. In early 2014, supercentenarian Anna Stoehr celebrated her 114th birthday by learning to use a tablet, all the while receiving well-wishes from friends and family via FaceTime. Stoehr praised the technology for its ability to enhance communication. Sadly, Stoehr passed away in Plainview, Minnesota in mid-December 2014. Her tenacity and enthusiasm for technology is an inspiration to us all.