5 Secrets to a Long Life from the World’s Oldest Seniors

5 Secrets to a Long Life from the World’s Oldest Seniors

Have you ever wondered what it takes to live to 100 or even longer? Maybe it crosses your mind as you’re clocking miles on the treadmill or eating a salad (again). You might think about it when you go to the doctor and get nervous right before you hear the test results. Or maybe it crosses your mind when you’re watching the grandkids play and thinking about how nice it would be to have a few great-grandchildren running around.

A select handful of people reach the age of 100, and some go well beyond that. Take Bessie Hendricks, for example – she passed away recently at the age of 115. She was the oldest person in America and the fourth-oldest person in the world, according to the Gerontology Research Group.

What did she see in her 115 years? She grew up on a farm, married and had five children, taught in a one-room schoolhouse, and worked in an ammunition plant during World War II. She survived the Spanish Influenza epidemic, the Great Depression, more than a few wars, and many other major social and cultural events during her more than a century among us.

So what was her secret to such longevity?

At 110, she said her secret to a long, happy life was “hard work.”

What do other centenarians and supercentenarians believe is the secret to their longevity? We rounded up five pieces of wisdom from these seniors and discovered that while some of the reasons make perfect sense, others are simply tongue-in-cheek. Regardless, maybe you can take a few gems from this list while enjoying the charm of those who have reached 100 and beyond.

1.      Be Kind

Being kind to others doesn’t cost a single dime. And kindness is like a boomerang – what you give comes back to you. Numerous studies on kindness have shown that being generous and compassionate toward others can leave you with a better sense of self-worth, more confidence, and more energy. Kindness can protect you physically as well, by releasing the good hormones the body needs to keep your heart and other organs healthy and strong. And of course, kindness can help with depression and anxiety.1

Maybe that’s why seniors like Gertrude Weaver, who lived to be 117 in her native Arkansas, said, “Treat people right and be nice to other people the way you want them to be nice to you.”

2.      Stay Active

The health benefits of staying active into old age can’t be overstated. The Surgeon General’s report on the positive effects of physical activity includes a long list of good reasons to engage in exercise.2 As long as you are following any recommendations from your doctor and staying safe (this is a good time for a medical alert device to come into play), there is literally no downside to staying active as late into your golden years as you possibly can.

Duranord Veillard lived to be 111. He woke up at 5 AM every single day and did at least five push-ups every day upon waking. Jiroemon Kimura lived to 115 and credited making daily exercise a strong discipline for part of his success in longevity. Many of the others on our list, in addition to eating certain foods and keeping their minds busy, engaged in exercise on a regular basis.

3.      Keep Your Mind Busy Too

Keeping your mind sharp can keep you healthier and happier, as evidenced by Alfred Date, who lived to be 110. In his later years he took up knitting – he made sweaters for his friends as well as tiny sweaters for injured penguins. Yes, for penguins! Simply the idea of a penguin waddling around in a colorful sweater is enough to make anyone smile.

Bernardo LaPollo was born in Brazil and lived to 114. He actually wrote several books about longevity. One of his key pieces of advice was to take the time to do crossword puzzles and other stimulating activities for the brain, in addition to taking the time to relax. “Stress is a killer, my daddy told me that,” he said.

Kane Tanaka, a Japanese woman who lived to 119, engaged in mathematics every morning. And Jiroemon Kimura read the newspaper every day to keep his brain sharp throughout his 115 years.

4.      Consider What You Eat and Drink

Remember Duranord Veillard, the gent who lived to 111? His mornings began with a workout routine as well as oatmeal, fruit, and a cup of tea. Later in the day, he feasted on fish and vegetables.

Another man who lived to be 111, Alexander Imich was a Polish chemist who attributed his longevity to two things: a healthy diet and absolutely no alcohol. But in addition to his good diet, he also practiced calorie restriction, vigorous exercise, and taking nutritional supplements.

Muriel Froomberg of London considered alcohol quite differently; she drank a bottle of whiskey each week, blended with her favorite ginger ale. She passed away at the age of 107. She also ate chicken soup and asparagus for every meal.

Jessie Gallan, who lived to 109, was born on a farm and began working as a milkmaid by the age of 13. She credited part of her longevity to a bowl of porridge every morning. She got plenty of exercise, too.

On the other hand, there are some who think that the things conventional wisdom says are bad for you are actually good for your longevity. Case in point: bacon! Susannah Mushatt Jones, who lived to 116, claimed that bacon was the key to a long and happy life. And not just bacon for breakfast – bacon all the time! But the longest-lived woman in history, Jeanne Calment, had the best advice of all: two pounds of chocolate each week. That might seem like a lot of chocolate, but she lived to 122, so who are we to disagree?

5.      Indulge – or Avoid – Some Pleasures

When Jessie Gallan was asked what she thought was her secret to long life (besides that bowl of porridge and a smile), she announced, “My secret to a long life has been staying away from men. They’re just more trouble than they’re worth!” As you might imagine, she remained single throughout her life.

Someone else who never married was Clara Meadmore. She lived to the age of 108 and credited singlehood for her many years. While she maintained platonic relationships with men, she chose not to engage in the romantic side of things and instead, focused on her career. When it came to romance, she was dismissive, saying, “I imagine there is a lot of hassle involved and I have always been busy doing other things.”

Can You Live to 100 or Beyond?

Living to 100 is incredibly rare. Only 0.0173% of Americans reach that milestone.3 There was a time when the idea of living that long seemed impossible, but many things have changed in recent years to allow the healthiest among us to extend our lifespans. Better food, clean water, advances in healthcare, and more attention to keeping our brains sharp has helped to make that kind of longevity possible.

One of the ways to make sure you live longer is to avoid the serious health problems that plague many elderly adults. A senior life-saving alert system can certainly help in any type of emergency—a medical alarm at your fingertips means that you simply press a button and help is on the way.

And keep in mind that having an emergency button alert system is not just for falls. It’s there at your fingertips for any sort of accident or emergency. If you suddenly aren’t feeling well, reach for the button alert to get help. Alert1 never charges for button pushes, so you can use your medical alert pendant as often as you feel you need to. Alert1 is honored to support seniors to achieve better health and safety to reach the longevity many elderly adults desire!