Sto lat, they sing in Poland for your birthday. One hundred years, one hundred years — may you live one hundred years! What I once thought a crazy birthday wish is closer to becoming reality, especially if you are a woman living in one of the world’s developed countries like Japan or the U.S.
In Michigan, 115-year-old Jeralean Talley takes the title for World’s Oldest Person. She became the oldest person in the world when 116-year-old Gertrude Weaver from Arkansas passed away early in April of pneumonia. Prior to that, a Japanese woman, Misao Okawa was the worlds oldest person. She died on April 1, 2015 at 117-years old. And although she lacks the paperwork to back her assertion, Mexico’s Leandra Becerra Lumbreras claims to be 127 years old.
Life expectancy is increasing around the world due to improved health care (including immunizations,) sanitation, access to clean running water, better nutrition, and avoiding behaviors that are known to increase rates of mortality, such as smoking.
But there’s a difference between reaching the average life expectancy in the U.S. (about 80) and becoming a supercentenarian (anyone who has been validated to have lived to be 110 years or older) — about 30 years. The Gerontology Research Group at the University of California, Los Angeles tracks supercentenarians around the world and, as of their last update on April 6 (as of this writing), 52 people (50 women, 2 men) are over the 110 year mark. There are many who claim to be just as old or older than Ms. Talley, but there’s no documentation to prove their birth date.
There is, of course, a difference between living a long life and having a long life worth living. These extraordinary thing about the supercentenarians I’ve researched is that they all seem to be pretty healthy and happy, with sharp minds and disease-free bodies. Thomas Perls, is a professor of medicine and the director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston Medical Center, the largest study of centenarians worldwide. Their studies show that a combination of genes and a healthy lifestyle contributes to aging well. They have found that among supercentenarians, health span = lifespan. They write that they believe that instead of the aging myth “the older you get the sicker you get”, it is much more the case of “the older you get, the healthier you’ve been”.
So let’s get the long-life tips right from the sources. Here’s what the three oldest living people say have contributed to their long life.
Jeralean Talley, 115, b. 5/23/1899, Michigan
"It's coming from above," she told the Detroit Free Press. "That's the best advice I can give you. It's not in my hands or your hands." She also credits her long life to living by the golden rule.
Susannah Mushatt Jones, 115, b. 7/6/1899, New York
“I don’t have a secret,” Ms. Mushatt Jones told Time magazine. “Believe in the Lord.” And while she never drank or smoked, she eats four strips of bacon every morning, followed by scrambled eggs and grits, and gets at least 10 hours of sleep each night.
Emma Morano-Martinuzzi, 115, b. 11/29/1899, Italy
Ms. Morano-Martinuzzi claims eating raw eggs and avoiding men has kept her young.
Of course, studies show that longevity runs in families, and if your parents lived to be 100, chances are that you will too, as will your siblings and your children. Personally, I’ll be happy to test the daily bacon theory. Do you know any long-lifers? What are their secrets?