How to Live to be 100: Advice from 10 Centenarians

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To discover the secret to a longer life, the best people to ask must surely be those who have lived the longest. Some of the oldest people in the world were born before the turn of the 20th century, and have lived well past 100 without, well erm, dying.

This certainly isn’t medically sound advice for the most part, more like an insight into what it is that the world’s super centenarians believe has kept them going all these years. So what is it that makes these people special? What’s their secret? As we’ll discover, its not always what you might imagine…

10. “Mind your own business”

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In 2011 the Guinness World Records handed the title of ‘world’s oldest living person’ to Georgia resident, Besse Cooper who retained the record until she passed away in 2012 at the age of 116. Of the two pieces of advice that she offered, one is perhaps more likely to be in line with your doctor’s recommendations than the other.

Her secret to longevity? “I mind my own business, and I don’t eat junk food.”

So maybe cutting down on the unhealthy stuff would be a good start. Beyond that, maybe you should stop being such a busybody!

9. “Sushi and sleep”

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Misao Okawa is a Japanese super centeniarian at 116 years old, and is currently the world’s oldest living person. Born on 5th of March 1898 in Tenma, Osaka, Misao says the key to a long life is eating sushi and getting at least eight hours sleep a night. She said in 2014 “Eat and sleep and you will live a long time. You have to learn to relax.”.

Who would have thought that one of the secrets to a longer life could involve getting enough sleep? So next time we’re feeling guilty for sleeping in passed what others might call a ‘reasonable time,’ we can be reassured that we’re simply investing in our longevity. Sushi for breakfast!

8. “Never get bored”

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“I’ve only ever had one wrinkle, and I’m sitting on it”.

Quoted on her 110th birthday, there was really no doubt that Jeanne Calment still had her sense of humor. Calment was born in France 14 years before the construction of the Eiffel Tower, and at 122 was the oldest person ever when she died in August 1997.

Every birthday during her last decade was celebrated in France. She delighted in amusing reporters with her many secrets of longevity. The list was different every year and included (among others) laughter, activity and “a stomach like an ostrich.” Calment also attributes her many years to her faith, stating “(God) has forgotten me. He can’t be in such a hurry to see me. He already knows me very well.”

At her party a year before her death, Calment gave some insight into what it takes to stay interested and engaged during a life as long as hers. “I dream, I think, I go over my life… I never get bored.“.

7. “Hard work and a glass of wine”

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Well, it was inevitable that ‘hard work’ would come up eventually, but the wine is a silver lining.

Marie-Louise Meilleur lived in Corbeil, Ontario and was 117 years old when she died in 1998. She cited hard work as the major factor in contributing to her impressive age, but she likely extended her life by some years when she stopped smoking at 90 years old. As well as hard work, Meilleur was known to enjoy a glass of wine, which she also cited as a contirbuing factor in her longevity.

At least after all that hard work you’ll feel like you’ve earned your glass of wine, right?

6. “Be nice, worship God and eat pigs’ feet”

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Jeralean Talley is an American super centenarian who is, at the age of 115 years, the oldest living person in the United States and third verified oldest living person in the world. Talley still lives very much as she always has done, often staying up until midnight feasting on some of her favorite foods: potato salad, honey buns, McDonald’s chicken nuggets and Wendy’s chili.

Staying active at her age isn’t a problem either. Talley sews dresses, makes quilts and enjoys playing the slot machines at casinos. At 104 years old she had to give up bowling though, as she no longer had the strength in her legs.

Staying active isn’t Jeralean’s secret to a long life though. “Do unto others as you desire them to do unto you,” is her mantra, and she insists that’s the secret to living a long life. It should also be said though, that eating plenty of pork is on her list too. Every Christmas, she bakes pigs’ ears and feet in a jelly stock for herself and her family.

5. “Two eggs a day – one raw and one cooked”

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When it comes to Emma Morano’s secret to longevity, its all about the diet. She was born in 1899 and is the last living European person to have been born in the 1800s.

The 115 year old lives in Verbania, Italy, is in pretty good shape for someone who has seen 11 popes come and go. She still spends her days doing housework and cooking. Morano says her diet – including a raw egg every day – has helped her outlive most born in her time. “For breakfast I eat biscuits with milk or water,” she said. “Then during the day I eat two eggs – one raw and one cooked – just like the doctor recommended when I was 20 years old. For lunch I’ll eat pasta and minced meat then for dinner, I’ll have just a glass of milk.

Not exactly an exciting diet, but it’s certainly working for Ms. Morano.

4. “Don’t get married”

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Scotland’s oldest resident Jessie Gallan celebrated her 109th birthday in January 2015. Being Scottish, it’s rather predictable that one of the reasons she cites for her impressive age is eating plenty of porridge. But that’s not her strangest explanation for her place in the centenarian club.

“My secret to a long life has been staying away from men. They’re just more trouble than they’re worth,” she said in an interview this year. “I also made sure that I got plenty of exercise, eat a nice warm bowl of porridge every morning and have never gotten married.

Now we all know some people who could do with being single for a while, but a full 109 years is probably a bit much! After all, can life really be appreciated to it’s fullest without someone there to enjoy it with you?

3. “Staying positive and lots of singing”

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Christian Mortensen lived in Marin County, CA until the grand age of 115 years old. He was born on Aug. 16 1882, in Skarrup, Denmark and came to the United States when he was 21. On his 115th birthday in 1998 he was asked about the key to his impressive longevity. His answer reads a bit like a ‘good news, bad news’ rollercoaster. He revealed his secrets as…

Friends, a good cigar, drinking lots of good water, no alcohol, staying positive and lots of singing will keep you alive for a long time.”.

Mortensen loved cigars and smoked a few per week from around 20 years old until his death. But it seems that staying positive had a great effect on his life, and he kept singing all through until his death in 1998.

2. “Funche”

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Don’t tell me you don’t know what ‘Funche’ is!

Emiliano Mercado del Toro was born in Puerto Rico in 1891, and became the world’s oldest living person on December 11, 2006. Although there have been many super centenarians awarded this title at some point in their lives, del Toro was one of the few men to do so.

Emiliano credited his long life to Funche, which is a traditional Peurto Rican dish that he ate every day. Consisting of a blend of corn, milk and fish, Funche doesn’t sound that appealing to the uninitiated. But if the oldest man in the world consumed the dish daily, then maybe we should be giving it a try. Can we add bacon?

1. “Smoke cigars, drink beer and eat greasy food”

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Now then, I would suggest this advice be taken with a pinch of salt (pun definitely intended), as all medical advice would suggest you really shouldn’t be doing any of these things if your intention is to live beyond 70, never mind 100. But this is the philosophy behind the remarkable John McMorran, who at 113 was America’s oldest man before his death in 2003.

As well as cigars, beer and greasy foods, McMorran also stresses the importance of staying away from cheap whisky in staying healthy. “He was never sick,” 35-year-old great-granddaughter Lisa Saxton remarked in 2003. “He lived a great life. Obviously, he was well put together. He smoked cigars, drank beer and ate greasy food. He was an amazing man.”

An amazing man indeed, living life on his terms right until the end. Advice from our super centenarians varies a lot, and can even be quite contradictory! One thing that most have in common though, is a tendency to avoid stress. Nearly all who were asked reported that being positive or avoiding anxiety in their lives had a positive impact. We really can’t know for sure what it is that kept these folks going well beyond 100, but you can bet that for the most part they didn’t really worry too much about it.


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