Words of Wisdom from Centenarians

Suzanne Marlatt Stewart

One of my favorite phrases is “There are many paths to the mountaintop.” For many of us, we are inching our way there through our 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Surprisingly, to me, one in 26 baby boomers is expected to live to be 100.

Co-authors Steve Franklin, Ph.D. and Lynn Peters Alder have interviewed more than 500 centenarians. Their book Celebrate 100: Centenarian Secrets to Success in Business and Life shares insights to what lies ahead.

When asking the centenarians if they are still having fun, the answer is a resounding yes!

One who enjoyed her ride was Margaret Dunning, who lived to be 104. I happened to see her on the news one night a few years back, and she was driving her pristine old Packard to the very end of her long life. She collected and restored antique cars since the ’40s. She had stated, “It’s a good ride and I am enjoying the opportunities provided by these later years.”

Many centenarians say they do not feel their chronological age; on average, they report feeling 20 years younger. Some say the trick is to not act your age!

1. Have a positive attitude

Almost all the centenarians the authors spoke with believed a positive, yet realistic, attitude was critical throughout one’s life and described themselves as optimistic people. I personally think that having a purpose and passion is also important, feeling that you have something to contribute and sharing your talents with others.

2. Diet

Many of the centenarians did not promote a specific diet but rather eating in moderation, such as no McDonald’s super-sized meals. Others cut down on their meat consumption or were vegetarian.

3. Exercise

The phrase “move it or lose it” certainly applies to longevity. Find an activity that you enjoy—walking, swimming, learning to play a sport (consider golf or pickleball). The key is to keep moving.

4. Faith

I agreed that belief in a higher power was a key component. Almost all centenarians interviewed said that their faith has sustained them. Most believe they will be here as long as God has a purpose for them.

5. Clean living

Almost 75 percent of the centenarians surveyed said they never smoked; most of the others stopped between the ages of 40 and 70. And while some never drank, most said they enjoyed only an occasional cocktail or a glass of wine.

6. A loving family

Universally important to centenarians is family. They enjoy their roles as matriarchs or patriarchs, and many spoke of the pleasure of watching their younger generations grow and flourish. Sharing years of experiences, stories, and wisdom to younger family members is important.

7. Genetics

Picking the right parents and their genes may be a factor, however, not to be discouraged, many centenarians stated that their parents and grandparents did not live long lives. Living well may be a greater factor than we realize!

The biggest secret these centenarians shared was that living to 100 was worth the effort. Like climbing a mountain, we can aspire to reach that height, not just because it is there, but because the journey is worthwhile and the view from the top is unsurpassed.

Rev. Suzanne is an independent writer and speaker, who has lived in SaddleBrooke for five and a half years. Her focus is “inclusive.” She was ordained non-denominational in 1988, representing all faiths. She can be reached at [email protected]