Q. I am 91 but would like to live to be 100. Can you share some ideas on how to achieve this? Thank’s for
There have been many studies on centenarians to discover the secret of long life.
One of the largest and most comprehensive studies is the New England Centenarian Study by Dr Thomas Perls which identifies characteristic centenarians share and its reasons.
Perls suggests several things we can do to increase our chances of living a long life as described in his podcast September 12, 2022 and in his book, “Living to 100: Lessons for Living to Your Full Potential at Any Age” (Basic Books, 1999). Additional evidence comes from the blue areas which are places where people live longer with more vitality. See “Blue Zones: Lessons in Living Longer from the People Who Have Lived the Longest” by Dan Buettner. Unless otherwise noted, most research comes from the Perls study.
Here are 10 suggestions:
1. Exercise regularly. Most of the Perls and Buettner study centenarians remained physically and mentally active. When Buettner asked the very long-lived Costa Ricans their secret to longevity, they said they enjoyed physical labor all their lives. In Sardinia, these elderly people leave their homes around November to walk their sheep in feeding areas and do not return until April or May.
2. Manage stress. Centenarians are natural stress shedders as an innate part of their personality. As Perls notes in his book, “we may not be able to change our personalities, but we can change the way we react to situations.” Thus, longevity does not eliminate stress; that’s how we respond to it. In addition, stress has been described as an aging accelerator.
3. Eat well. Keep meat consumption to a minimum. The Blue Zone study found that the daily food intake of people living in blues geographic zones is approximately 95% vegetables, fruits, cereals and legumes. These long-lived people do not eat a lot of meat, dairy products, sugary foods or drinks, and processed foods. Also, don’t eat until you are full. Those in Okinawa eat until they are 80% full.ara hachi bu.
4. Don’t smoke. Smoking was almost non-existent among centenarians. The few people who smoked in their early years soon quit the habit. In addition, alcohol consumption was rare, although a few drank it regularly.
5. Have a sense of humor. Centenarians have it, even those with cognitive impairments. Humor is associated with good physical health and psychological adjustment and helps us think creatively and solve problems.
6. Don’t be neurotic. Centenarians, especially women, seem to be relatively immune to neuroticism. It means being immune to unhealthy feelings like anger, fear, guilt and sadness and aspects of depression, anxiety and hostility. Those with little neuroticism are calm and collected even during crises.
7. Be charismatic. Centenarians have a personal magnetism that attracts people and inspires respect and affection. It is also a protection against depression and stress. With humor, he brings people to admire them and to be around them. Consider if you’re 90 and need to go to the gym or the doctor. With charisma, others may want to help you eagerly. If you’re unhappy and grumpy, you might be alone.
8. Be spiritual. Most centenarians have a lifelong awareness of their spiritual side and their relationship with God, regardless of their observance of holy days and rituals. Clearly, religion and prayer, similar to laughter and closeness, have important health benefits that cannot be replicated by drugs or diet, according to Perls and Buettner.
9. Be adaptable. Centenarians easily adapt to new surroundings. This includes moving to assisted living facilities and retirement homes. They are realistic in recognizing that they can no longer function well independently. Perls writes, “they see the writing on the wall.” When the best solution is some form of assisted living, “they jump right in”.
10. Have a sense of purpose. Centenarians living in blue zone areas are said to have a strong sense of purpose throughout their lives. Okinawans call it “ikigai” – a reason to get up in the morning; those in Nicoya, Costa Rica call it “plan de vida”.
To get an idea of your chances of reaching 100, check out the life expectancy calculator for living to 100 developed by Dr. Perls at https://www.livingto100.com/calculator.
DE, we hope this gives you some guidance on valued behaviors and lifestyles related to longevity. Of course, there are no guarantees. One last thing – be sure to wear your seatbelt. Best wishes for achieving your goal and know that kindness is everything.
Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on aging and new retirement issues with academic, corporate, and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at [email protected]. Visit Helen at HelenMdennis.com and follow her at facebook.com/SuccessfulAgingCommunity