What is the secret to living well into your senior years? Just ask a Centenarian. On November 7, 2017, I had the privilege of meeting with twenty individuals who had all surpassed their 100th birthday. In fact, two of them were 107 years old! The event was the “Celebrate Centenarians” luncheon, a vision of gerontologist, Kate Caldwell, to bring together and honor individuals who had lived long and fruitful lives. Kate refers to their journey as “sage-ing”, rather than age-ing. Those who have experienced 100 years of life often have an abundance of wisdom and understanding that can be passed on to the next generation. These sages certainly helped to unravel the stereotypes and myths of old age. They were vibrant, happy, and eager to share their life experiences.
So what is the key to living to 100? The centenarians were asked what advice they would give to the next generation. Many talked about having a positive attitude and choosing to be intentionally happy with each day.
Norman Hill warned, “Aging comes faster than you expect, so enjoy each day.” Ambassador Marion Smoak, who was unable to attend the event, but sent his suggestions in writing, agreed by stating, “Don’t take yourself too seriously and always enjoy life.” He also added, “Never be afraid to rock the boat.” Simple, but wise advice.
Many of the centenarians attributed their loving families as the secret to a long life. Doris Kessler advised the younger generation to “Look for people who are honorable, especially in regards to marriage.” And Joseph Lucchi credited his “wonderful family” as the secret to his happiness. However, another stated, “The reason I made it to 107 is because I never got married and never had kids.”
Others focused on staying active. According to Ray Renola, the key is to “say no to drugs, and take care of your body by exercising.” Several agreed that being physically active is essential to a long life.
Anne Grosvenor’s advice was to “follow your dreams.” Rubinette Dunaway urged the next generation to “stay active and do what you can for others.” Vera Punke agreed that volunteering is important, adding, “When you do something for someone else, it makes you feel good.”
Others said that aging is just a number, not a lifestyle. According to Mary Ceconi, “Don’t think about the number. Just go on about your business.” And, Ray Renola stated that he “refuses to get old!”
However, the best line of all came from Ambassador Marion Smoak who responded to the question of advice for living a long life with, “Martini’s, beautiful women, and oysters – not necessarily in that order!” A sense of humor goes a long way.
The Centenarian Sages provided a living example of how a positive attitude and a life of giving to others can be fruitful and long lasting.