My grandma and I had a pact that we’d both do our best to live to be 100. She died at 85 after a long, happy life, married to her best friend since 1st grade. Go Mommo! But I’m still in the running, so I’m always interested in how Centenarians live it up. And it seems to boil down to two things: luck, and keeping a good attitude about life.
Israeli physician Nir Barzilai and his staff at the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York have asked hundreds of centenarians hundreds of questions, including details of their living circumstances, nutrition, alcohol consumption, smoking, physical activity, sleep, education, status, and spirituality — all in the hope of finding commonalities.
The results are sobering: “There is no pattern,” says Barzilai, 54. “The usual recommendations for a healthy life — not smoking, not drinking, plenty of exercise, a well-balanced diet, keeping your weight down — they apply to us average people, but not to them. Centenarians are in a class of their own.” He pulls spreadsheets out of a drawer, adjusts his glasses, and reads aloud: “At the age of 70, a total of 37 percent of our subjects were, according to their own statements, overweight; 37 percent were smokers, on average for 31 years; 44 percent said that they exercised only moderately; 20 percent never exercised.”
The women in my family tend to live a long time, although I don’t think anyone has made it to 100 yet. What is your family’s pattern for longevity? Were people healthy right before they died, or did they linger with illness?