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From viral videos to published wisdom: My mother, Mildred, the centenarian

BY GAYLE KIRSCHENBAUM | I never intended for my now-centenarian mother to become a social media sensation, drawing millions of views. Originally, I created my Instagram account to showcase my fine art photography. But everything changed when I posted a video of my mother.

When I aimed my iPhone at her when she hit 99 years old and asked her what it felt like, I never knew that posting her response on my Instagram would change our lives.

Looking at the camera my mother said, “I can’t believe I’m 99 and still have all my marbles. I’m the luckiest woman in the world that I have a family that I think adores me. Even if they don’t, they call, they check on me, and there are so many people who don’t hear from their family.”

The video went viral. As much I was eager to share my photography and grow my number of collectors, it was clear to me, my mother had something people wanted. I then decided to dedicate my feed to my mother, our relationship (we’ve come a long way) and our adventures together.

Mildred Kirschenbaum, my mother, is remarkably spry for her 100 and one half years. She looks 20 years young, lives alone, still drives, recently bought new car. She is a card and mahjong shark playing daily at her clubhouse and on her iPad; she never misses a happy hour, and is still flying and traveling the world. She continues to manage her portfolio, does put options, whatever that means. When something breaks, she learns how to fix it by turning to YouTube videos.

As her star has risen, I post videos of her almost daily to feed the hunger of her fans. When we are not together, she shoots her videos and sends them to me. I edit and post them.

My mother’s sharp wit and resilience has attracted celebrities, such as Maria Shriver, Hoda & Jenna and singer-songwriter Jax, who invited my mother on stage at Orlando’s Amway Center. Jax led the audience of 20,000 people to sing “Happy Birthday” to my mother for her 100th.

Mom and I have become nearly inseparable, even when we are not together. I closely monitor her through home cameras. After once finding her unable to get up after a fall, I was able to get help. I’m her main caregiver and grateful she’s managing well.

It’s hard to imagine life without her. We got off to a late start and I often wonder if a higher power is keeping her alive and vibrant for us to make up for lost time.

“Look at Us Now, Mother!” is a feature documentary I made with her spanning several years of my journey toward forgiveness and transforming our relationship. The film’s impact has been profound, motivating me to become a forgiveness coach.

Our latest collaboration is a book called “Mildred’s Mindset: Wisdom From a Woman Centenarian.” This came about because Mom’s fans kept asking for it. Her videos are filled with advice on life and longevity. “Mildred needs a book!” they insisted.

I polled our followers whether to go the traditional publishing route or self-publish, both of which I had never done before. “You don’t have time! Self-publish!” they all screamed. “And do a GoFundMe and we will help you.”

The book launched on International Women’s Day, with sold-out events and media coverage.

Mom’s calendar was already full with her own activities prior to all this new attention and fame. Now, I squeeze in the media requests and sometimes she needs to cancel a card game to accommodate an appearance or interview.

Following “Mildred’s Mindset” will be the release of my memoir “Bullied to Besties,” which tells the story of my mother trauma and our reconciliation.

Before my memoir is released, we have a lot more to do with “Mildred’s Mindset,” including the audio version and a book tour. Mom’s fans want to meet her and have her sign their books. We launched a GoFundMe for this phase.

Next up is May 7 at Westbeth, at 55 Bethune St., in the community room at 7 p.m. Mom is flying up alone, yes alone, to give a talk and do a Q&A and book signing.

Meanwhile, I continue to photograph in between making “mother videos” and yearn for the day I return to making movies. But, for now, my priority is providing my mother with unforgettable experiences.

“Mildred’s Mindset” is available for purchase through Amazon and Barnes & Noble and directly from our distributor, Ingram Spark. Visit our Web site at for more details, and follow our journey on Instagram at @glkirschenbaum and on Facebook and YouTube.

Join us on May 7 at Westbeth’s Community Room to meet Mildred in person.

One Comment

  1. Carol Frances Yost Carol Frances Yost May 7, 2024

    Wow! Way to go! Where does she actually live? Apparently not in NYC.

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