6 Keys to Longevity: What Centenarians Know

Researchers have spanned the globe – from China, to Italy, to Nova Scotia- in search of healthy, vibrant centenarians. Their quest: to understand longevity.

I’m absolutely fascinated with older folks. I love listening to their stories and learning from their insight and wisdom. Recently, I had lunch with a spry retiree who regaled me with his adventures traveling solo throughout South America in the late 1960s after he’d finished his year in the Peace Corps.

I was struck by his lucidity and spunk.

What is it, then, that these wise men and women know about happiness, longevity and success that we can learn from?

After reading a number of articles, here’s what I’ve gathered:

1. Eat Plants

From the farmers in China to the shepherds in Sardinia, people who live to be 100 eat lots of fruits and veggies. They also ingest legumes (lentils, fava beans, edamame, black beans…) on a regular basis.

What’s on your plate?

See if you can consume at least ONE fruit or vegetable with every meal. The goal is five a day, right?

(And don’t forget olive oil – great for increasing good cholesterol and fabulous for the skin.)

2. Move

Most centenarians, it turns out, don’t go to the gym. But they are regularly active in their daily existence. Physically moving is key to keeping your body strong and healthy.

Think brisk walks. They help maintain bone density and oxygenate your lungs and organs. And the best part? You only need to move for 15 minutes a day. So whether it’s walking the dog, shopping, raking leaves or gardening, have fun moving!

3. Connect

We all need social interaction (with actual people). Turns out that social connection, with family and friends, IS a major factor for both happiness and longevity.

Do an inventory of the people with whom you spend time. Could you grow your social network or spend more quality time with people you really love and appreciate?

4. No Stress

Stress and anxiety are the bane of our modern existence. In order to live a long and happy life, we have to learn how to deal with them and ideally, reduce them in our lives.

Using anchors like breath work, affirmations and meditation, are great ways to neutralize stress, as is physical exercise.

Relaxation techniques, time in nature or in the tub help too.

Utilizing these strategies will help you sleep better, which is another key to longevity.

5. Purpose

Have you noticed that when someone retires, they can often wither? Like, without a job, they have no reason to exist?

We ALL need to feel like we have a purpose. What's yours?

Is it really selling real estate, running a clothing store or doing corporate training?

Or is your purpose larger than that? Dig deep and find what it is for you. I promise, once you do, it will transform your existence.

6. Optimism

Maintaining a positive attitude. Not taking life so seriously. Letting things roll off your back are common themes seen with healthy centenarians.

And what is optimism if not a perspective? A lens through which we view the world.

Remember the old adage: “Is the glass half empty or half full?”

What do you want it to be? 

Many years ago, I decided to choose optimism because, if nothing else, it felt so much more comfortable. Here’s my truth, I want to live in a world where I believe we can rise to our highest potential. Where we can honor and respect one another. Where there is justice and empathy. Maybe I’m a dreamer, but if I always think the worst, my life then becomes small and petty. AND I’m always a grouch.

Instead, I choose optimism and who knows, maybe I’ll live to be 100 too!

Wanna read more about longevity? Here are a few of the articles I found:

Centenarians in Nova Scotia

What Centenarians Can Teach Us About Success

Sardinians Teach the Secrets to Longevity

Centenarian Profiles from The New York Times