99-year-old pianist still entertaining crowds


PARSIPPANY, NJ (CNN NEWSOURCE) – A New Jersey man is putting new meaning to the saying “age is just a number”.

At 99-years-old, he is still playing the piano and entertaining crowds, just like he’s always done.

88 keys on his piano and 99 birthdays under his belt.

As Henry Shapiro closes in on 100, he performed at a luncheon for heart patients Sunday in Parsippany, which added to a long list of gigs in retirement villages and local bars.

That he’s healthy enough to keep playing at this age, makes him feel…

“Very lucky, very lucky. I haven’t got any problems with my hands in general and I’m fortunate to still have eyesight,” Shapiro said. 

He was born in Dover, Morris County in 1920 and around that time, he started studying music.

In his teens, he played in a seven-piece “big band” orchestra around Lake Hopatcong, earning 75-cents a night in those early days.

He served in the Army Air Corps in World War II, and when he returned, he married, had four kids and worked in a small department store during the day and played piano at night.

“Even when I was working in retail business, I was playing three, four, five nights a week, which is what I wanted to do,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro says there’s no secret to his longevity, just genetic roulette and luck.

“Spin the wheel, as they say,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro’s cardiologist Doctor David Freilich, who treated him for a heart murmur, says everything you’ve heard about the importance of a good diet, regular exercise and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check are factors, but that’s only part of it.

Something else that he says is shared by Shapiro and all his patients who are in their 90s and 100s, it’s a word that begins with the letter “R.”

“You have to be resilient to make it into the 90s. You’re not going to make it otherwise,” Dr. David Freilich said.

The doctor says social interaction is key.

Shapiro gets plenty of that, even though he lives by himself, for six years now since the death of his wife.

“I like to be busy and be active with people. I like being with people,” Shapiro said.

He is loved for graciously sharing the gift of music with so much heart.

This is the best therapy, he says, for his audience and for himself.

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