Over the last 20 years, the number of people in the U.S. who are 100 years old or older has tripled–meaning that now, nearly 100,000 Americans have been alive for a century or more. I have really been enjoying an interactive feature from the New York Times called “Secrets of the Centenarians – Life Before, During, and After 100.” You can see photos and hear podcasts of eight people who are over 100 years old talking about their experiences and what factors they think have contributed to their long, happy, healthy lives.
One of these folks, Esther Tuttle, was further highlighted in a recent article. By all descriptions, she is a vibrant, take-charge woman still very engaged with life. Esther thinks that in order to have a long and happy life, “You’ve got to work, be cheerful and look for something fun to do. It’s a whole attitude.” That anecdotal point is supported by a recent centenarian study conducted at Boston University. The researchers found that the majority of people 100+ are extroverted, have high self-esteem, handle stress well, and surround and involve themselves with friends, family, and community. They also tend to be thin, exercise regularly, and lack a significant history of smoking. Of course, the researchers acknowledge a strong genetic component to longevity as well.
This research dovetails nicely with something I’ve mentioned here before- Dan Buettner’s work on “Blue Zones”, areas of the world like Okinawa and Sardinia that boast an exceptional number of very old, very healthy people. The preponderance of evidence points to living a physically healthy lifestyle, being engaged socially with hobbies, interests, friends, and family, and not sweating the small stuff.