Ever wondered what it takes to live a long and happy life? Here are 7 essential tips from a few centenarians and seniors approaching 100.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 7, 2023. It has since been updated.
Newspapers, magazines and TV shows all often talk about the secret to a long and fulfilling life. Recent research on this field, such as the one by New England Centenarian Study, suggests that protective genes play an essential role in longevity. But there is more to living longer than just protective genes. CNBC shed light on the path to longevity by asking those who have lived a long life to share some tips for a long and happy life.
Here are some helpful pieces of advice they shared:
Dr. Gladys McGarey, 102, explained that she always had a purpose or something to live for. “You don’t find that if you’re not looking for it,” she said. Purpose is a central theme in her book, "The Well-Lived Life: A 102-Year-Old Doctor’s Six Secrets to Health and Happiness at Every Age."
Her passion is in “living medicine,” which focuses on “looking at disease and pain as teachers.” We can live a better and even longer life by understanding what our ailments are trying to teach us and taking appropriate remedial measures, McGarey shared.
In searching for "why", we also get to pick, "with whom?" It simply means we need to have fulfilling relationships with others. McGarey explained, “There are people who come and go in your lives, but you choose the ones who really help to support you.”
This is substantiated by plenty of research. An 85-year Harvard study found that the key to a long and happy life is “social fitness,” meaning how we pour ourselves into others and correct imbalances by becoming better friends and partners. As for steering through tough days, “just don’t get stuck. Or if you do [get stuck], start looking for the light. It’s always there,” McGarey says. “You just have to keep looking for it.”
“I became a sacristan and didn’t retire from that until I was 99,” Margaret Stretton told The Guardian. Even at age 100, she was unstoppable. She’s spent the last few years making preserves and marmalades as a part of charity for her community. It brings purpose and motivation to her life.
A study by researchers for the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research found that working for at least 25 hours a week is associated with improved cognitive function in those aged 40 and above.
Larry Janisse stays young at 98 by finding some humor in all aspects of life. When asked about his secret for his long life, he said as a joke, "You got to have good booze and hot women, and that takes care of it.”
As a father of six boys and five girls, he finds bliss in being around his loved ones, especially during family get-togethers. And when in stress, he said, “if it’s something that I don’t know what to do, I call my kids and talk to them to see what they think.”
For Roslyn Menaker, 103, being positive is the key to having a long life. She finds joy in everyday life, from her daily walks to her beautiful wardrobe. “I love to look at beautiful clothes and eat out,” she said. “I have an amazing caregiver. She gives me manicures and pedicures, and colors my hair.”
Malcom Idelson is 94 now and long walks are his secret to a long life. “I try to walk every day, without excuse,” he said. “I look forward to it. I’m often a little down and I say, ‘Let me get out and walk,’ and I feel so much better.”
Even when Idelson was a resident and fellow at Mount Sinai Hospital, he chose to walk over using elevators. “I was a walker, up the steps. [I] ran up and down. Everyone knew it. It was just in my blood,” he shared.
“Keep your body in good shape and your mind in good shape,” advises Ruth Sweedler, 103. “Then you’ve got it made. I’m interested in everything, and I’m in the here and now. I don’t look back; I look forward.” It can be a healthy approach to avoiding stress and living a more present life.