Who wants to be 100? I’ve been doing some thinking this week about centenarians — people who live to be 100 or more. Often we associate old age with loss of health and vitality. Getting old is not for sissies.
But some people break the rules and refuse to act their age. One old fellow who is a retired attorney had always wanted to be a baseball batboy for the Red Sox. For his one hundredth birthday, he was granted his lifelong wish to be a batboy for the Sox.
Another little old lady worked as a librarian for her entire life. Even at 100 she continued to work every day in a one room library and museum. She had no plans to quit and continued to dust the books and the floor just as she always had.
Thinking of old people makes us wonder, “How old is old? Are you really only as old as you feel? Are there certain things that centenarians seem to have in common? The secrets to longevity are not really as elusive as the legendary fountain of youth.
First of all, you must have a genetic tendency and come from a family where people tend to live long lives. After that, it is simply a matter of doing the things that we all know we are suppose to be doing anyhow, including such boring activities as getting enough sleep, eating a low-fat, low-calorie diet, and doing that dreaded exercise. Exercising every day can increase life by as much a five years. One elderly centenarian is still riding a bicycle at 100 years.
Another suggestion for a long life is avoiding nicotine and alcohol in excess. One glass of red wine per day, however, is believed to be healthful due to a substance found in the skin of red grapes. Drinking green tea is also believed to contribute to longevity due to the antioxidants found in it.
One centenarian became quite famous when she was photographed celebrating her birthday by lighting a cigarette from the candles of her 100th birthday cake. There are exceptions to any rule — but don’t count on being one.
Most of the secrets to longevity are under our own control. High stress in life and occupations that create it are one of the main things to avoid. Even good dental hygiene and flossing our teeth has been found to prevent infection that can get into the blood stream and cause heart problems.
Centenarians, as a group, seem to be people that have lived active lives and managed to avoid the cancer, diabetes, heart disease and accidents that kill people at an early age. Often they are still working and never retired. One lady spent her life in political jobs and led active life at 100 as a sergeant-at-arms for a state legislature.
“World’s oldest living person” is an honor that tends to change frequently, unfortunately. The person confirmed as the oldest person who ever lived was a French lady who lived to 122. There have been numerous claims of incredible age since times of antiquity but absolute proof, such as a birth certificate, was scarce in times past.
With advancements in medicine and health, there is little question as to whether a person can live to be 100 or even older. One person in 1000 is expected to live to be 100.
You don’t have to be old just because you are. So, who knows, the next centenarian might very well be you or me.
Copyright 2009 Sheila Moss
NOTE: The corona pandemic is exacting a grim toll among the estimated 70,000 centenarians in the U.S. Remarkably, however, a few have managed to survive COVID-19 against all odds.