The Secrets of Centenarians: How to Live to 100 and Beyond

What’s the secret to a healthy, happy, and long life?

Ask 100 people that very question, and you’d probably get close to 100 different answers. In fact, one company recently did just that—and the results are positively fascinating.

100 Seniors Share the Secrets to a Long Life

Earlier this year, A Place for Mom, a service that connects consumers with home care and assisted living options, conducted a survey of 100 centenarians—that is, people aged 100 years or older.

The questionnaire aimed to understand what factors may help increase someone’s lifespan so far above the average (which, as of 2018, was 78.7 years for someone living in the US).

It’s only reasonable to be curious. After all, who wouldn’t want to live for as long as possible, and continue enjoying life to the fullest for as long as possible?

The survey asked 100 centenarians for their secrets to longevity and then collated their responses to determine what choices came up again and again. So, in their own words, what were the things that helped these centenarians achieve such long lives?

Here are their top ten responses:

  1. Ignore traditional dietary advice (29%)
  2. Eat a healthy diet (25%)
  3. Stay active (22%)
  4. Keep a positive attitude (18%)
  5. Drink alcohol regularly (16%)
  6. Abstain from alcohol/smoking (12%)
  7. Maintain meaningful relationships (10%)
  8. Get a good night’s sleep (9%)
  9. Be nice to others (9%)
  10. Have faith (9%)

Pretty interesting results, right? To be sure, there’s a lot of truly great, useful wisdom contained in that list.

Overall, the centenarians’ responses suggest a life of moderation, of finding “a happy balance,” as A Place for Mom puts it. In other words? Don’t deny the good things that make life worth living, and always keep up the positive behaviors that make you feel good, whether that’s eating well or staying close with your family and friends.

Let’s explore a few of those top ten longevity choices in a bit more depth, and really get to the heart of what makes these pearls of wisdom ring so true.

“Stay Active”

Staying physically active is a key factor in staying healthy, whether you’re five or 105. But how much activity does it really take to promote a longer, healthier life? One landmark study may have shed light on this age-old question.

One comprehensive global study, recently published in the journal The Lancet, found that just 150 minutes of exercise per week—that’s 2.5 hours of movement—could be enough to lower your risk of premature death by 28 percent, and lower your risk of heart disease by 20 percent.

Need some ideas to get up and get moving? Our guide to getting physically active for people of all ages is available here. Looking for some specific ideas and things to try as you head toward 100? We have a few handy tricks available here.

“Keep a Positive Attitude”

As 103-year-old Mary Tadisco told A Place for Mom: “If life’s not good today, forget about it. Tomorrow, it will be better. Look at it that way. Let it go by.”

Pretty sage advice, right? And, in fact, studies show that looking on the bright side can have serious benefits for your health. As the New York Times and the Mayo Clinic report, various studies have shown an indisputable link between positive thinking and health benefits such as:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Less risk for heart disease
  • Better weight control
  • Healthier blood sugar levels
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Improved ability to cope with stress or hardship
  • Longer lifespan

“Get a Good Night’s Sleep”

Misao Okawa, who lived to be 117 years old, famously attributed her longevity, in part, to “getting eight hours of sleep each night and relaxing,” according to CNN. Similarly, 112-year-old Masazo Nonaka has credited relaxing and regularly soaking in hot springs (his favorite hobby) as a way to stay young.

These two are definitely onto something, as are the many other centenarians who encourage getting enough sleep as a way to live longer. According to Health, Americans are chronically sleep-deprived, with the average US resident “almost an hour short on sleep.” Getting a healthy amount of sleep each night is a way to promote healthy cell growth and repair, and research suggests that sleeping well may just help you extend your lifespan by years and years. So, what’s the optimum amount of sleep for longevity? The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting between 7–9 hours of shut-eye each night for optimum health.

“Be Nice to Have Others” and “Maintain Meaningful Relationships”

Gertrude Weaver lived to be 116 years old, and was once “the oldest person in the world,” according to the Gerontology Research Group. And as she told TIME Magazine, the secret to living a long life may just be “kindness.”

As she put it, “Treat people right and be nice to other people, the way you want them to be nice to you.”

Mrs. Weaver may have a point. In fact, staying socially active and making time for friends and family may be one of the most important things older adults can do for their health.

Various studies have shown that keeping up friendships and other social connections can benefit aging adults in countless ways. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has found that staying socially active can help reduce your risk factors for a variety of conditions including “Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer.” Psychology Today also reports that “people with more social support tend to live longer than those who are more isolated,” while also having a higher chance of enjoying better mental health and a lower risk of developing dementia.

“Eat a Healthy Diet”

Looking to eat like a centenarian? One way to get started may be to look to the “Blue Zones.”

Have you ever heard of Blue Zones? These are five regions on the planet—scattered across North and South America, Europe, and Asia—with the highest concentration of centenarians. Some of the most famous Blue Zones include Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; and Okinawa, Japan. Researchers have spent a fairly significant amount of time scouring these regions for insights, including getting a feel for what Blue Zoners eat, and how these choices may impact their incredible longevity.

Author Dan Buettner distilled a few simple ideas down for NPRAs he notes, people in Blue Zones tend to emphasize plant-based diets, with moderate meat intake and regular, moderate alcohol consumption. People in these regions also tend to limit their portions, and stop eating well before they feel full.

For more ideas on healthful, conscientious eating, we have a rundown of some current popular diets—including a few inspired by Blue Zone eating—available here.

Getting Coverage for Every Step of Life’s Journey

Life is a journey, not a destination. If you’re looking for the right health and life insurance policies to cover you at every step of the way, to 100 and beyond, the Enrollment Specialists are here and ready to help.

Whether you’re interested in group health, individual plans, or Medicare Supplement insurance, the Enrollment Specialists can help you find the right policy for wherever your journey takes you.

We believe that insurance plans should be as unique as the people they help protect. That means we don’t believe in cookie-cutter care. We’ll take care to get to know what makes you special, so our health and life insurance superhero Matt Peebles can help customize the right plan for your needs, making sure your costs are always minimized while your coverage is at its peak.

And even better? Whenever you need help or have any questions for the entire life of your policy, Matt and the Enrollment Specialists team will always be just a phone call or email away—no need to waste your valuable time on faceless call centers or online chatbots.

Curious about your health and life insurance options? Want to know what it takes to get covered for every stage of life’s journey? Drop us a line today to keep the conversation going.

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