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3 Secrets To Living Long From The Oldest People To Ever Live

by Isa Nan 2 months ago in advice
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A long time or a good time? It doesn't always have to be one or the other.

Image by Gajo Romário on Unsplash

As the world around us continues to evolve at an unprecedented rate, people have also become more educated and mindful of their lifestyles and environments. Since the 1800s, the human life expectancy has been increasing steadily at a rate of about 3 months per year. As a result of that, it is more common than ever to now see people all over the world living well into their 90s and going past the century mark.

That being said, living longer may not always mean living better. If anything, it would be more burdensome to have to live longer if your quality of life continues to decline. When I read up about the oldest people to ever live in order to see how they dealt with such a decline, I was surprised to see that their quality of life remained very much intact until just shortly before they died.

The secret to their extra long lives? None at all. Just a few simple habits that they all have in common and that I'd love to share with you now.

You don't have to be a health fanatic

A WWII veteran, Richard Overton spent his golden years smoking cigars and indulging in whiskey and ice-cream. Despite that he remained healthy enough to live alone and could even drive himself until his death at the age of 112. Image: Wikimedia Commons

A common misconception about people who live long is that they all lead extremely regimented and disciplined lives with strict diets and regular exercises. While it is true that such a lifestyle would likely increase your chances of living long and maintaining a good quality of life, most super-centenarians get to that stage in their lives without having to be overly mindful of their health.

Jeanne Calment, the oldest person to have ever lived, indulged in wine, cigarettes and chocolates everyday until she passed away at the age of 122. Similarly, Richard Overton, who was once America's oldest living man, enjoyed smoking cigars, drinking whiskey and eating ice cream. He passed away at the age of 112 and had lived an independent life until the week of his death. Rather than obsess over their health and fitness, they balanced their indulgences with other habits that will be explored later in order to keep everything in moderation.

Japan, the country with the highest life expectancy and most super-centenarians can attribute the longevity of its people to the lifestyles they lead. However, this too is more of a cultural factor than it is a case of people going out of their way to adapt habits that will increase their chances of survival. In fact, if you listen to any interview with a person who has lived over a hundred years, they will likely say that they have made no conscious effort to live as long as they have.

Another common misconception about people who live long is that they have stronger immune systems that prevent them from getting sick. This is also not true. Bob Weighton, who was the world's oldest man until his death in 2020 at the age of 112, said that he suffered and recovered from the common sicknesses of his time such as the mumps, measles and whooping cough.

Kane Tanaka, who died at the age of 122 and the second longest person to ever live, has survived paratyphoid fever and beat cancer twice, the latest of which happened when she was 103. She continued to live a relatively healthy life until just before her death. Both Weighton and Tanaka lived ordinary lives and received whatever treatments were available to the average person. Even when the Covid-19 pandemic was in full swing, a noticeable amount of infected centenarians were able to make full recoveries.

This goes to show that as long as you take reasonably good care of your health and do things in moderation, you stand a chance to not only live long but to also maintain a decent quality of life. As long as you don't overdo it, there's nothing wrong with a bit of indulgence. Don't worry about getting sick either because as long as you do enough to maintain a moderate level of fitness, you stand as good a chance as recovering and carrying on with life as anyone else.

Maintain hobbies and a social life

Working as a barber from the age of 11, Anthony Mancinelli enjoyed his job so much that he kept doing it until he was 108 years old. He was recognised as the world's oldest barber and lived an independent life where he mingled with friends and family until his death in 2019. Image screenshotted from here

Many older people begin to decline mentally and emotionally before the physical decline begins. After losing a spouse and with their children grown and out of the house, ageing becomes a lonely experience and without the extra effort to keep yourself out there in the world, many older people become withdrawn and lose passion in the things they love. Oftentimes, they stop doing things long before they are physically unable to and this often marks the start of their decline.

Looking at the habits of super-centenarians, it is clear that many of them never stopped doing the things they enjoyed or picked up something new to occupy their time. They were also in regular contact with friends and family even if they lived by themselves.

Jeanne Calment enjoyed hobbies like cycling, swimming and fencing and had been able to do these well into her old age. Richard Overton enjoyed driving himself around town to buy groceries, meet up with friends and go to church. Kane Tanaka who lived in a retirement home enjoyed taking walks around the area, doing puzzles and calligraphy as well as socialising with the people around her. She also met regularly with friends and family.

Certain people choose to continue working well into their twilight years. Anthony Mancinelli, worked full time as a barber until the age of 108, the year before he died. Those around him believed that the secret to his long life and good health was his job as it kept him fit, busy and emotionally fulfilled even after losing his wife of 70 years.

In Malaysia, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed came out of a short political retirement to retake the premiership at the age of 94 thus making him the oldest leader in history. Even after losing the post again in 2020, he has continued as a full time member of Parliament, keeping a busy schedule and maintaining healthy habits like cycling. A man in his late 90s, he could easily be mistaken for a person decades younger.

This shows that by maintaining a regular schedule of activities and keeping busy, you will unconsciously be maintaining your health and quality of life. Hobbies, passions and a social life are important to people of any age and being able to maintain them as you get older may be just what you need to not only keep you alive but allow you to continue to enjoy life.

If living like you're still young is what you feel will keep you going, go for it. If you feel like age may hamper your ability to do certain things that you could do now, it'll never be too late to find something new to try when the time comes. Besides, one is never too old to be able to spend time with friends or family either.

Stop Worrying and Enjoy Life

A former engineer who had travelled the world, Bob Weighton enjoyed spending his time with family and getting in touch with people from all around the globe. For a man of his age, he looked noticeably younger than many super-centenarians. Image: Wikimedia Commons

A quality I noticed about most super-centenarians is how much of a zest for life they continue to have. While none of them have ever expected to live as long as they have, they still approached their lives with a noticeable sense of enthusiasm and look at the world with a sense of wonder.

Many super-centenarians have often dealt with great difficulty in their younger days and tend to find more happiness in their older years. Richard Overton had numerous brushes with death during his time fighting in the Second World War while Kane Tanaka had endured and overcome many health ailments as a younger woman.

Even as they age, many super-centenarians do not let the world pass them by. Even if they have had relatively normal lives as younger people, they find great enjoyment in many of the modern amenities that we take for granted. Having literally seen the world evolve, many super-centenarians are more appreciative of the technology that allows them to continue to entertain themselves and communicate with others even into their twilight years. Bob Weighton was a particular example of a person who had made friends with people all over the world online as he lived through his 100s.

Other super-centenarians base their entire lifestyles on the concept of minimizing their stress and worry. Jessie Gallan who lived to 109, attributed her health and longevity to her decision to not get married. She believed that life as a single person was far less stressful and made it easier for her to live a long life. Mary Carruba, who also lived past 100 attributed her good health and longevity to being a "lazy bird." Having never had a job and living a simple life, Carruba believed that her idle but content lifestyle was what kept her alive and well for over a century.

Regardless of how these people found ways to unwind in their golden years, it is a medical fact that stress has been linked to various health issues. By eliminating stress from their lives, most super-centenarians are actually less susceptible to various stress-related illnesses. This is perhaps why we do not see many super-centenarians dying from sudden heart attacks or strokes.

So perhaps, we should take this as a lesson to try to take things a bit easier when we can. It goes to show that if we base our existences on living for a good time, life in turn will reward us and keep us around for a longer time too. Perhaps we should stop seeing living long and living good are not mutually exclusive but rather as two things that go hand in hand.


That does it for this article. If you made it this far, let me thank you for taking the time to read this! Coming from a person who had quite a few relatives who lived into their 90s-100s, I enjoyed reading up on the habits and lifestyles of these super-centenarians. Many of their life stories and lessons echoed what I was told by people in my own family.

It goes to show that no matter where you're from, the "secret" to a long life is the same. There's no big secret. Just live a fulfilling life and surround yourself with people and positivity. Do let me know if you have encountered others who lived long, healthy lives and share what they felt their key to longevity was. I love hearing back from all of you! Until then take care!



About the author

Isa Nan

Written accounts of life, death and everything in between

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Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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  • Deasun T. Smyth2 months ago

    this is why it's important to respect our elders. they're the ones who lived through many things, and can teach us a lot.

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