A look at centenarians, people who live to be 100 years or older,
provides some final food for thought on the subject of aging well. Monika White, a world-renowned expert on the subject of
aging and President of the Center for Healthy Aging in Santa Monica, California put together the following summary on some
important similarities among centenarians and factors important to aging well:
No definitive findings have resulted from studies of those who
live to be 100 years old or older, but similarities have been consistently found, some in health and lifestyle areas but especially
in characteristics and attitudes. Diet, religion, ethnicity, socio-economic status, education nor genes (although there is
a higher chance of longevity if parents or siblings live a long time), have not accounted for advanced age.
Some facts (from the New England Centenarian Study, Harvard,
The Minnesota Nun Study, the University of Georgia Centenarian Study):
- Centenarians are not obese.
- Centenarians rarely smoke.
- Centenarians seem to have delayed or avoided age-related health
problems such as stroke, heart attacks, cancer, diabetes although no one knows why (many Centenarians are donating their bodies
to science for study after their deaths).
- Centenarians have a stress-reduction mindset – they handle
stress better than others (sometimes called the "Centenarian Personality").
- Centenarians have a sense of humor – an ability to laugh
at themselves and others.
- Centenarians have a sense of hope – they look forward
to tomorrow with anticipation.
- Centenarians are engaged – they do something, have an
interest, are involved.
- Centenarians have an ability to cope with loss (and the longer
you live, the more you lose – family, including children, friends, sight, hearing, driving, etc.) and still go on with
Here are some factors that have been found to be important to
- PLAN to be old – consider your needs for health, housing,
legal, financial and social/personal supports (remember – you could live another 20-40 years after society considers
you "old" at 65).
- Stay involved with others – do not get isolated (very
- Stay connected through family, church, interest groups, volunteering
- Get help early – don't wait for a crisis.
- Know where to go for information and resources – have
at least one phone number of a family member, friend or organization you can call in the middle of the night.
- Don't just hang out with people your own age – they may
have more problems than you do if/when you need help.