Flushing centenarian celebrates 103rd birthday with family and friends at local healthcare center

Birthday celebrant, Santiago Urena (right) with his wife Juana.
Photo courtesy of Centerlight

A lively celebration filled the CenterLight Healthcare PACE Center in Flushing on Wednesday, as family, friends and staff gathered to honor one of their participant’s 103rd birthday.

Santiago Urena, born May 1, 1921, in the Dominican Republic, celebrated a festive day marked with traditional Latin music, a special lunch and a birthday cake.

Urena danced the afternoon away, crowned with a birthday hat, as attendees sang “Happy Birthday.”

Photo courtesy of Centerlight

Martha O’Loughlin, a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist at the center, emphasized the unique community spirit, stating, “Occasions like this are what make CenterLight truly special. We’re dedicated to honoring our cherished friends.”

Having spent the majority of his life in the Dominican Republic as a municipal police officer, Urena immigrated to Queens in 1996 with his wife, Juana. The couple, married since 1952, have seven children, 24 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.

Shaun Ruskin, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at CenterLight, highlighted the importance of acknowledging the diverse backgrounds of the center’s participants. “It’s heartwarming to recognize the experiences, cultures and contributions of our participants,” Ruskin said. “Santiago’s longevity and spirit inspire us all, and our staff understands the importance of commemorating these significant milestones.”

Photo courtesy of Centerlight

The celebration also featured buttons with photos of Santiago throughout his life, worn by guests as a tribute to his long and colorful journey. Santiago and Juana Urena have been active in the CenterLight community, particularly enjoying music, dancing and playing dominoes.

Jin Hwa Lee, another Therapeutic Recreation Specialist at the center, praised Santiago’s character: “Santiago is a caring, friendly and positive person, which may be the secret to his longevity!”

CenterLight Healthcare PACE, a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, serves adults aged 55 and older across New York. It offers a range of services designed to help seniors maintain independence and enjoy a high quality of life.