The Secrets of the Centenarians: How to Live to 100!

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When Helen Boardman was nonetheless a girlish 99, she fell in love again—with a

youthful man.

«I robbed the cradle,» laughs the trim centenarian, who married a person

twenty years her junior for «companionship,» she says slyly. «Bill was

lonesome—I wasn’t!—but I loved his firm and we had the identical

pursuits. So we fell in love.»

It did not damage that Bill Boardman had the identical final title.

«That was a coincidence,»provides Bill. «She stored getting my checks, I bought her

payments, so out of necessity, we had to get married!»

Nowadays, the twosome usually carry out collectively in performs at Friendship

Village, an impartial residing facility exterior of Chicago the place they share a

one-bedroom condominium. Helen writes, directs, and stars in the productions.

«I do not get nervous…I’m over all that,» she shrugs nonchalantly.

She’s 107. He’s 86.

Still romance after eight years? «A little bit,» Helen laughs, «when he is actual good

to me, which is most of the time. He’s a superb man.»

«To be completely frank, » notes Bill, «Helen would not appear 20 years older at

all. She’s by no means acted like an outdated girl. Last New Year’s Eve, we stayed up till

midnight dancing. I feel she’s maintained her youth fairly effectively!»

Indeed, decked out in pearls and a sensible black-and-white checkerboard

costume, nestled right into a sofa in her front room, the girl born in June, l896,

says: «I really feel younger inside…I’d say about 60.» She would not even dye her still-

auburn hair. «My mom and father did not go grey both,» she says with pleasure.

» I assume I’m ingesting from the Fountain of Youth.»

«Sometimes,» she provides, miffed by these round her of their 80’s and 90’s

who complain about their well being, «I really feel like a teen in an outdated folks’s dwelling!»

An avid reader, e-book reviewer, and world traveler, with 12 journeys to Europe

beneath her belt, Helen additionally recites poetry, gardens, flower arranges, and lifts

weights each day!

«Just one or two or kilos every arm,» she demurs of her bicep curls.

Her secret of longevity? «Strawberry shortcake!» she smiles sweetly. «One

huge piece, day-after-day.»

* * * * *

The Centenarian Jackpot

The outstanding Helen Boardman isn’t alone. In the U.S. immediately, there are

greater than 50,000 centenarians, the nation’s quickest rising age group.

Although the present life expectancy for the common American is 76.9 years, by

the yr 2050 there can be an estimated a million individuals residing to 100.

That’s substantial progress. In 1900, the common life span prolonged to age 47.

In 1800, it was a mere 30 years-old.

«The secret to reaching 100 these days is a mix of genetics,

way of life decisions, psychological acuity, and simply plain luck!» notes Thomas T. Perls,

M.D., creator of Living to 100: Lessons in Living to Your Maximum Potential at

Any Age (Basic Books).

This landmark e-book, written with Margery Hutter Silver, Ed.D. is predicated on

the ongoing New England Centenarian Study, begun in l994, which reveals that

outdated age will be stuffed with lucidity, mobility, and good well being.1

«Of the 1,500 centenarians in our research,» says Perls, «an amazing majority

had been in terrific form the overwhelming majority of their lives. Rather than accumulating

harm, they’re really shedding it.»

How so? «Most individuals imagine the older you get, the sicker you get, a really

pessimistic level of view. The centenarians we have met exhibit the

reverse: the older they get, the more healthy they have been. I name them centenarian

jackpots. From a medical standpoint, they have been ready to markedly delay or

altogether escape ailments that we usually affiliate with aging—like coronary heart

illness, most cancers, stroke, or Alzheimer’s.

«I have never had something,» notes Helen Boardman. No ailments. No

medicines. «I take an aspirin often,» she admits, for hip ache.

«Freed from any main sickness,» says Dr. Perls, «many centenarians like

Helen are cooking their very own meals, balancing checkbooks, driving their very own

automobiles, lifting weights, taking part in bridge, and studying novels, and socializing with

household and pals.

Some are even competing in the Senior Olympics. Take, for instance,

one other outstanding centenarian, Marguerite Kuekelhan, born in August l897.

At age 105, she’s the world file holder (in her age class) for shotput! Last

July, at the Washington State Senior Games in Olympia, the 97-pound athlete

may very well be seen hurling a 6 half of pound steel ball 6 toes into the air

Her secret? «I feel it is the spirit inside you,» she says crisply. Being 90 or

100 isn’t any excuse for inactivity? «Heavens no! I strive not to let age maintain me down

in any respect.

This yr I’m making an attempt to break my file and make it higher,» says 4-foot 10

inch dynamo, who hopes to beat her greatest observe throw at 7’6″.

Is all this enjoyable? «No,» she groans. «The ball may be very heavy; I’d somewhat bounce a

rubber ball.» In truth, she just lately performed exhibition basketball in opposition to the

Seattle Supersonics, warning the crowd: «Before I get began, I have never

dribbled in about 100 years!»

That’s for positive. A widow after 55 years of marriage, Marguerite lives alone

in a tidy condominium in an impartial residing facility in Olympia, does her personal

cooking and cleansing, at all times makes use of the stairs, and does her leg and ankle

workout routines every morning to preserve power and steadiness for the shotput.

«And I nonetheless drive,» she says with pleasure, «although I’m giving that up once I

flip 106 this August. I simply really feel as if my reactions usually are not as fast as they

used to be. But I nonetheless see very very effectively and I hear effectively too—though I had to

get one of these issues! [a hearing aid].

* * * * *

Genetic Booster Rockets

What in the world is occurring right here? A lady getting married at 99 and

starring in performs? Another shotputting and dribbling a basketball? What

Fountain are they ingesting from?

«These centenarians,» notes Dr. Perls, «are blessed with what I name ‘genetic

booster rockets’, a built-in organic benefit which boosts them above the

norm. Anyone residing to excessive outdated age has this genetic edge. They had been

endowed with the ‘Rolls Royces’ of genes, what scientists name ‘tremendous genes,»

which act as longevity insurance coverage. These genes decelerate growing older and scale back the

threat of contracting ailments. Centenarians in our research who lived to 105 normally

died of pneumonia, or perhaps a family accident—having by no means developed any

continual illness of growing older. For positive, excessive outdated age runs in households.»

Both Helen and Marguerite’s dad and mom lived into their 80’s, with shut

relations of each topping 102.

Even with common genes, nevertheless, it is attainable to lengthen longevity extra

than ever earlier than, says Dr. Perls: «Not way back, 85 was thought-about historical.

Now it is comparatively straightforward to obtain that age should you play your playing cards proper. It all

boils down to 4 easy issues: not smoking, sustaining a nutritious diet,

power coaching, and avoiding extreme solar publicity and alcohol. Those are

the biggies.»

One such instance is the nation’s oldest man, 113-year-old Fred Hale, born

in New Sharon, Maine on December 1, l890, when Benjamin Harrison was


Up till age 107, the retired railway clerk lived alone in a three-story

farmhouse in Maine, traipsing up and down stairs, shoveling snow off the roof,

chopping wooden, looking, fishing, mowing grass, gardening, and beekeeping—

producing his personal honey and bee pollen, a lifelong ardour.

He was nonetheless driving his personal automobile, making him the oldest American ever to

maintain a driver’s license in accordance to the Guinness Book of Records.

At 113, Hale is in a particular class unto himself, thought-about a «super-

centenarian,» outlined as anybody residing 110 or longer. There is one super-

centenarian per million in the inhabitants, a complete of 260 in the U.S. immediately. «We

do not but know what units these individuals aside,» says Dr. Perls. «They don’t have any

main diseases, and even their listening to and imaginative and prescient do not normally deteriorate

till their late 90’s.»

Hale, each of whose dad and mom lived to 91, has, in recent times, beat

pneumonia and hip alternative and had cataract surgical procedure. «No ailments, no

nothing,» he exclaims, «apart from some arthritis,» which is cured, he believes,

with a teaspoon of bee pollen taken with every meal.

Although just a few falls finally pressured him into the Syracuse Home, a

retirement neighborhood in Syracuse, N.Y., he continued utilizing a walker till age

112, mountain climbing half a mile a day. His psychological acuity and full of life sense of humor

stay undimmed.

How did he survive so lengthy? «Oh, I do not know, punishment, I assume!» he


When reflecting on it, he credit his longevity to a superb food plan, tons of relaxation (up

at 6 a.m., to mattress at Eight p.m.) by no means smoking, and conserving busy.

«The secret is figure,» he declares. «Don’t sit round. Keep a superb perspective. I

at all times liked to work. When I went dwelling, I bought 5 hours sleep, after which went

to work in my backyard. I can nonetheless stoop down and decide up a handkerchief higher

than most of them!»

* * * * *

Use It Or Lose It

Until Fred Hale was 111, he studied the Reader’s Digest ‘Word Power’

vocabulary train religiously, testing himself on new phrases weekly. His work

ethic and psychological curiosity level to one other key ingredient in the longevity

marathon: exercising the mind.

«It’s positively use it or lose it,» says Dr. Perls. «The key to psychological vigor is

frequently studying one thing new, which builds contemporary connections between

mind cells.

«For occasion, crossword puzzles (verbal capabilities), bridge (reminiscence

capabilities) and complex jigsaw puzzles (visual-spatial capabilities) all maintain the

thoughts sharp. Equally helpful is portray,writing poetry, making sculpture, or

studying a brand new language. We’ve additionally discovered that music is a robust vaccine

in opposition to dementia and the onset of mind illness. I knew a 102-year-old who

was by no means in her room at the nursing dwelling as a result of she was too busy taking part in

Mozart and Chopin recitals in the music room! Doing any of these items

permits you to preserve consideration and reminiscence, and the means to plan, arrange,

and train self-care.

«I feel the thoughts has lots to do with the approach you are feeling,» says Helen

Boardman, till just lately a voracious reader who spent a lifetime writing e-book

opinions for libraries and turning biographies into performs. Two years in the past, she

even accomplished her memoirs, titled: «105 and Counting,» earlier than her imaginative and prescient

started to fail.

«Staying dwelling and watching TV was by no means my pleasure in any respect,» says Helen,

who does tune into C-Span for the e-book opinions. She believes the secret of

longevity is: «Curiosity. I like to see the world and I like individuals. Everybody has

some good in them. If you are inquisitive about issues, you may search them out.»

She marvels at the technological miracles unfold over the three centuries

which her lifetime has spanned, but she recounts, with equal pleasure, her days

in a horse and buggy: «I drove to highschool day-after-day in my buggy. Maudie

was a retired beige race horse and I liked her! When we bought our first

vehicle, she was put out to pasture. We accepted the automobile instantly, sure—

however is not a horse extra enjoyable?»

Fun counts in Helen’s world. She even tried white-water rafting at 90: «The

ticket vendor mentioned that the solely requirement was that you simply had to be no less than eight

years outdated. I informed myself: ‘If an 8-year-old can do it, I can!» * * * * *

«Good Training» and The Centenarian Personality

Although many could marvel if food plan has a lot to do with the outstanding

well being of centenarians, «it is inconceivable to know as a result of dietary habits have

modified so dramatically over the years,» says Dr. Perls. Most processed meals

didn’t exist throughout the centenarians’ early life; preserving was carried out by

pickling, smoking, and salting; and contemporary fruit was much less out there. «Some ate

little or no pink meat, others ate it day-after-day with bacon and eggs!—and each

varieties lived to 100.» Nowadays, nevertheless, there’s little doubt, says Perls, that

«good coaching,» — train and correct diet—contribute mightily to residing to


«The secret of residing an extended life is way of life as a lot as something,» thinks

Helen Boardman. «I’ve at all times taken train, I do not go for liquor, and I by no means


«I’m not fond of pink meat in any respect,» she continues. «I choose greens, fruit,

rooster and fish. And when I’m not feeling too effectively, I’ve oatmeal. Growing

up on the household farm, we at all times had it in the morning, and I nonetheless find it irresistible!»

Chocolate cake? «Unacceptable however scrumptious!» she laughs.

Fred Hale, at 113, additionally eats reasonably and drinks no espresso or tea. His

food plan? «I eat off my fork simply the identical as everyone else!» he teases.

«I at all times eat rolled oats with honey for breakfast,» he explains. «Lunch is

meat and potatoes. And at night time, I eat very light—cottage cheese, apple sauce

and toast. That’s it.»

Athletic competitor Marguerite eats «very mild, which is simpler on the

abdomen,» principally greens and fruits: «And I do not use any milk

merchandise. I like soy milk as an alternative. It appears to be simpler to digest.» No desserts,

she says. Such advantage! «Well, look what the result’s!»

Beyond genetics, way of life, and psychological acuity, there may be one other profound, but

intangible, issue that influences anybody’s means to dwell to 100. Dr. Perls refers

to it as the ‘centenarian character’—a stress-reducing mindset that mixes

constructive considering with a preventing spirit.

«Inevitably, most centenarians are upbeat, humorous,and gregarious,» he

observes: «It’s very uncommon I meet a curmudgeon centenarian! They’re not

complainers. In our character testing, they rating very low in ‘neuroticism,’ the

expression of destructive feelings like worry, anxiousness, guilt, anger, or melancholy.

They’re constructive and optimistic of their perspective and bounce again simply from

life’s crises as a result of they do not internalize ideas or feelings that trigger


«I imagine in constructive considering,» booms the athletic Marguerite, a founding

and lifelong member of Unity Church in Olympia. «Mental perspective,» says

Marguerite, who meditates each day to take herself into «a quiet place» is

exceedingly essential. «I used to be at all times making an attempt all through my life to be constructive,

however I did not get to the peak till now….it was a matter of development.»

Her shut good friend and shotput promoter, John Vlastelia, the president of the

Washington State Senior Games, provides this: «When Marguerite reads in the

newspaper that ‘Flu season in full bloom,’ she at all times says ‘I’m not going to

get sick,’ and actually wills herself to good well being.»

«We know,» says Dr. Perls, «that stress—internalizing melancholy, anger,

fear, fear—is an age accelerator. We’ve discovered that centenarians are ready to

shake stress off their backs like a duck shakes off water. Many have

skilled nice losses and hardships of their lives, but they’d been ready to

get well rapidly and transfer on.»

* * * * *

A Realistic View of Death

Perhaps some of these centenarians will attain even the grand outdated age

achieved by Mme.

Jeanne Calment, the oldest residing individual in recorded historical past, who died in l997,

at age 122.

«The possibilities of residing to 122,» says Dr. Perls, «is 1 in 6 billion. Although I

assume the human life span may very well be finally expanded into the 130’s, for

most of us, reaching ages 100-105 is an affordable quantity to hope for.»

Centenarians like Helen, Marguerite, and Fred, thriving in the current as

they do, assume little or no about their restricted futures.

«Death is one thing that’s coming,» says Marguerite matter-of-factly,

priming for competitors this July at the shotput: «I settle for it as half of my

expertise in life, however I do not give it some thought in any respect.»

As for Fred Hale, each time his bodily therapist says ‘see you tomorrow,’

the 113-year-old solutions: «Perhaps! I’m not making long-term plans!»

His perspective towards demise? «What took you so lengthy!» he quips merrily.

Then, on a severe observe, he provides: «Can’t do something about it. Why be afraid?»

This perspective is typical, says Dr. Perls: «I have never met any centenarian who

feared demise. If something, they’re very grateful for day-after-day they’ve and so they

simply hope for extra.»

As for Helen, «typically,» she smiles, «I get so sleepy. Anytime I sit down, I

simply shut my eyes. My daughter was speaking about demise the different day and mentioned

she will be able to’t wait to discover out what occurs. Well, I really feel just about the identical approach.

I’ve no worry of demise. It’s simply one other part after we’re completed with our

work. I’m content material to cease anytime now.»

But she brightens at the thought of her youthful husband, Bill:

«He’s my incentive!» she says merrily. «My youngsters are all

impartial…they do not want me. Bill does. He wants somebody to boss him! I

look ahead to what’s but to come.»

All in all, is being 107 a blessing or burden?

«Both,» she solutions calmly. «It’s a burden as a result of I used to be a voracious reader

till I turned practically blind. So I’ve misplaced the factor that I loved the most,

although I can pay attention to books on tape. But it is a blessing as a result of of the issues I

nonetheless can do. Here’s my poem: «My listening to and vision—neither one are very

good; and I typically stumble once I stroll; however once you ask me any

query about my life, I positive am glad I nonetheless can speak!»

«So I’m an OPTIMIST,» she declares in parting, «grateful for all the pieces. Every

day. At dinner, each chew is thrilling as a result of I by no means know what I’m going to

eat. The cup is at all times full. I’ve by no means been in need. Everything is nice.

Nothing unhealthy.

«After studying my memoirs,» she smiles, «my nephew requested me if there

was something unhealthy in my life, and I mentioned: ‘If there was, I forgot it!»

* * * * *

Side-Bar RX

In a tradition obsessed by youth, «individuals have gotten to notice,» says Dr. Perls,

«that your 70’s and 80’s will be the most implausible time of your life. I see

individuals go after second or third careers, or volunteer actions, improve

relationships with their households, whereas their expertise and knowledge is at their

peaks. Life is their oyster. And it nonetheless will be at 100!»

Here are just a few well being secrets and techniques for anybody on the highway to 100, a prescription

from Dr. Perls, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Boston School of Medicine, and

geriatrician at Boston Medical Center.

Age accelerators to keep away from: smoking, solar publicity, extreme alcohol , high-

fats food plan, ionizing radiation, poisonous chemical substances, extreme risk-taking, and psychological

stress. Make health, laughter, and enjoyable recreation a precedence in your life!

Age de-accelerators: Exercise (weight coaching, aerobics, meditation, yoga); a

food plan of fruits, greens, grains, legumes, with a minimal of meats and

sweets, processed meals, and animal fats or butter.

Supplements: To stop arteriosclerosis, coronary heart illness, stroke, Alzheimer’s

Parkinson’s, imaginative and prescient issues, cancers, and rheumatoid arthritis, I advocate


*Vitamin E [400-800 IU per day] to stop and delay cognitive


*Vitamin B complicated (with folate)

*Calcium with Vitamin D (to lower the threat of osteoporosis)

*Omega Fatty Acids #three and #6 (derived from flax seed oil or fish oil,

availablein capsules, 1,000 mg each day]

*Selenium [100-200 mcg per day].

*Baby aspirin (81 mg) every day which reduces the threat of coronary heart assault by 50%.

*Green tea—noted by the Chinese tradition for 3000 years as a well being


Author’s observe: Since these interviews had been performed, Fred Hale, documented

as the world’s oldest man, died at age 113 on November 20, 2004. He was

bodily energetic and mentally alert proper up till the finish says his son, an